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The future after Lead City project expires: Bonn to spend seven million additional Euro on buses and trains

The future after Lead City project expires : Bonn to spend seven million additional Euro on buses and trains

The city of Bonn wants to retain some of the Lead City measures in public transport and does not anticipate receiving federal subsidies. This would result in total costs of more than seven million Euro for the municipality.

The city administration has submitted proposals to the Council on how local transport should continue after the expiry of the lead city programme supported by the federal government. Subject to the approval of the Rhein-Sieg district involved, the planning office recommends that part of the offer be retained. Costs for the city: 7.27 million Euro per year.

As things stand at present, the municipality must take over the financing itself. The pilot project to reduce pollutant emissions will expire in 2020. "We must assume that the federal government will not continue this funding," explained Helmut Wiesner, head of the planning department, recently in the finance committee. Even if it costs a lot of money: The strengthening of public transport is a decisive measure to make Bonn more climate-friendly, he said.

However, Klaus-Peter Gilles (CDU) warned of the financial consequences for Stadtwerke Bonn (SWB). The annual public transport deficit would grow from 37 to more than 50 million Euro, because SWB would also have to finance the acquisition of new railways decided by the Council. Since the municipal company can only offset these losses with energy savings to a limited extent, the city would have to make up the traffic deficit from 2023 - which would be "difficult to cope with" from a budgetary point of view, as comptroller Margarete Heidler noted. She must present a balanced budget from 2021. The decision on an extension of Lead City measures should therefore be made in the budget discussions starting in December, stressed Gilles, who is also chairman of the SWB supervisory board. However, Helmut Redeker (SPD) objected that the turnaround in transport is a central issue. His party wants to follow the city's proposals, but then test the measures for effectiveness.

The committee postponed the decision without a vote until the council meeting on 18 June. A decision must be made before the summer break, otherwise the plans can no longer be submitted for the timetable change in December 2020. Before the Council, the Transport Committee will hold a special meeting. At their last regular meeting, the specialist politicians were not very enthusiastic about the fact that the administration had submitted its draft resolution only hours before the meeting, explaining the complex subject matter.

The city draws a positive conclusion about Lead City: "The survey results show that significant passenger increases were achieved after only a few months. Depending on the line, the increases amount to up to 50 percent, and at weekends sometimes even more," says the submission. The increased frequency of service during the week has resulted in passenger increases of four percent on lines 61, 62, 63/16 and 66, and 20 percent at weekends. According to all experience, the full potential has not yet been exhausted, because a longer "establishment period" is required. A household survey, in which 14,000 people took part, also showed that 80 to 90 percent of those questioned had responded well to the increased frequency, especially at weekends. The proposals of the administration in detail:

■ The time compression on weekends should only partially remain. When Lead City began a year and a half ago, the main argument in its favour was that it could be achieved without additional vehicles. There was no time for new purchases. Following the recommendations of the SWB, the planning office is now proposing to offer increased frequency at weekends on all main lines on Saturdays only from 11.30 am (instead of the previous 9.30 am). On Sundays, the plan is to return to the old timetable, but to use larger articulated buses on the bus routes 601 to 604 and 608 to 610. Due to these restrictions, the costs would be 2.2 million instead of 3.5 million Euro.

■ The administration also wants to maintain the ten- and 20-minute intervals on the main lines until 20.30 hrs (before Lead City until 7.30 pm) in order to meet a stronger demand in the evening hours. According to the survey, the increase in passengers had been four percent. The city has to pay 1.3 million Euro for this.

■ The regional bus lines SB 55, 550, 551, 552 and 540/640 operated by SWB and RSVG, whose routes and times have been adapted more closely to the needs of the surrounding communities, are to be continued. On the express bus line 55 to Niederkassel, passenger growth on Sundays is said to have reached 85 percent. The costs for the city alone amount to 1.8 million Euro. Increased frequency of the regional bus lines 520, 537, 817, 845, 855, 856 and 857 will cost a further 1.2 million Euro.

■ The new bus line 632 connecting Venusberg, Poppelsdorf, Endenich, Nordstadt and Beuel would cost the city 1.1 million Euro in its current form. However, the planning office advises to follow a savings proposal by SWB and therefore estimates 770,000 Euro. It plans to close the line on Saturdays and Sundays. From Monday to Friday, the line will only run between the University Hospital and Bertha-von-Suttner-Platz. "This would result in a savings potential of 330,000 Euro", the bill states. The chairman of the transport committee, Rolf Beu (Green Party), called this proposal "completely nonsensical". In view of the extension of the S-Bahn 13 to Beuel, which is currently under construction, such a shortening of the line was unacceptable.

(Original text: Philipp Königs and Andreas Baumann, Translation: Mareike Graepel)