Bridges are to be renovated more quickly, bike paths and railway lines are to be built more quickly – and also certain motorways. That was decided by the federal cabinet. Surprisingly there is new Zoff.
The federal government has launched a package of laws for the long-controversial acceleration of transport projects – but new anger about a motorway project flared up again in the coalition.
The cabinet approved drafts by Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP). On the question of why an expansion of the A23 in Schleswig-Holstein did not appear in it, however, the FDP and the Ministry of Economic Affairs of Robert Habeck (Greens) immediately blamed each other.
In Berlin, Wissing spoke of a large package that should enable “massive” acceleration for rails, bridges, cycle paths, but also for the road. The rail network is overloaded in many places, resulting in late trains. The aim is to become faster in planning, approval and construction. Faster implementation of motorway projects should reduce congestion.
Specifically, the cabinet passed a draft law to speed up approval procedures. Key point: The realization of particularly important railway and trunk road projects should in future be in the “overriding public interest”. The projects in question should be given special weight in the context of weighing decisions, as stated in the draft, for example in planning approval or in court proceedings. The urgently needed renewal of bridges should also go faster – by extending the exemption from the approval process and the requirement for an environmental impact assessment.
Support from the countries for most projects
The legislative package also includes an accelerated conversion and expansion of certain motorway projects. After a long dispute, the heads of the traffic light coalition of SPD, Greens and FDP had agreed on this at the end of March. Specifically, it is about projects that are traffic jams and bottlenecks. The Federal Ministry of Transport initially spoke of 144 projects, and later of 145.
The countries concerned must, however, declare their agreement. Wissing had set a deadline of last Friday. He said most of the projects are supported by the countries. Some states like Hesse, where the Greens are co-governing, still need time. However, the legislative process should not be delayed. Which projects are to be expanded more quickly should be specified later in the course of a statutory ordinance.
There is now a new dispute in the traffic light coalition about a project in Schleswig-Holstein – namely about the accelerated expansion of the A23 to six lanes between Tornesch and Eidelstedt. Wissing said that this project was initially excluded at Habeck’s request. Specifically, the draft law stipulates that a faster expansion of the A23 is not in the overriding public interest. Wissing said he made no secret of the fact that the A23 should also be expanded more quickly for him. So that there would be no delay in the legislative process, he had complied with Habeck’s request.
FDP Federal Vice Wolfgang Kubicki accused Habeck of a “lousy game”. With his demand to remove the accelerated expansion of the A23 from the catalogue, Habeck is stabbing the black-green coalition in Schleswig-Holstein in the back, which has already agreed. Habeck torpedoed one of the most important infrastructure projects for the country
Will the A23 be expanded using the accelerated procedure?
A spokeswoman for Habeck rejected Kubicki’s criticism “with the utmost clarity”. The decision of the coalition committee on March 28 was based on a list of 144 projects submitted by the Ministry of Transport. “This list was an exhaustive list and the A23 was explicitly not shown in this list.” The Ministry of Economic Affairs pointed out the problem in good time. “However, this tip was not followed up accordingly.” Therefore, the A23 is not part of the draft that was in the cabinet.
Habeck’s spokeswoman said that this point should now be “clarified politically”. Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit referred to the upcoming parliamentary deliberations. If there is no agreement, the A23 will be expanded using the normal procedure and not the accelerated one. With regard to the coalition committee, he made it clear that it was not part of the original decision and has therefore not yet been listed.
A list published by the Department for Transport shortly after the Coalition Committee included the A23. Kubicki explained that no individual projects had been decided on in the coalition committee. Rather, the entire category of “removal of bottlenecks” was negotiated and agreed.
SPD parliamentary group deputy Detlef Müller generally called for improvements to the draft law. He mentioned the accelerated implementation of rail and waterway projects. The plans to expand the motorway in particular met with criticism from environmental groups. Greenpeace expert Benjamin Stephan spoke of a fatal signal for the mobility turnaround. BUND expert Jens Hilgenberg said that it was now being considered to treat the project list as a statutory ordinance, showing that Wissing shyed away from the Federal Council dealing with the specific projects.
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