Hamburg is chairing the Conference of Ministers of Transport, which is a forum for policy issues related to rail, road, inland waterways and intermodal transport. Frank Horch, Senator for Economics, will welcome ministers from all over Germany to Hamburg on April 27-28, 2017. Alexander Dobrindt, Germany’s Minister for Transport, is also expected at the conference. Senator Horch spoke to Hamburg News in an interview.
Hamburg News: Issues on the agenda include fast-tracking plans for infrastructure projects, clean air measures, assistant turning systems for commercial vehicles, Germany’s application for the ITS World Congress 2021 and the future of traditional shipping. What topics are the most important for Hamburg?
Horch: All of those points are important for Hamburg and on different levels. To us, it is highly important to fast-track and simplify planning procedures for infrastructure projects in future. Time and financing play roles therein. I can give you positive examples such as the expansion of the A7 motorway, which took only ten years from planning to finish.
Apart from that, I will also call for more support of the introduction of assistant turning systems in trucks. Traffic in cities must be safe and is most important. Traffic accidents involving utility vehicles seldom occur at the expense of weaker road users such as cyclists and pedestrians, but the consequences are often severe. I prefer the EU-wide compulsory specifications to equip new 3.5 ton vehicles with modern turning assistant technology and making it mandatory to retrofit older 3.5 ton vehicles with simple turning assistant technology such as camera-monitoring systems.
My colleagues and I will also discuss clean air measures. Setting up infrastructure for recharging electric vehicles quickly and allowing the widespread use of such vehicles is one way of raising the quality of air. We will also urge the German government to offer traditional shipping more support. Such ships are part of Germany’s cultural and maritime heritage and should be preserved for later generations. They play an important role in tourism.
Hamburg News: Hamburg has the chair of the transport ministers’ conference? Can this boost the progress of projects and agreements?
Horch: The transport ministers meet twice a year to discuss key objectives and to outline and develop their strategies in agreements. The state chairing the meeting has the opportunity to set priorities.
Hamburg News: The ITS World Congress is a top, forward-looking item on the agenda. Hamburg has already submitted its application. What are the next steps and what possible decisions will be reached during this week’s conference?
Horch: We are presently preparing Hamburg’s presentations at the upcoming European and world congresses. I will be attending the ITS European Congress in Strasbourg in June to highlight our application. ITS France has already lent its support to our candidacy. I am confident and look forward to the announcement at the ITS World Congress in Montreal in October. I will request the support of my European colleagues for our candidacy during the transport ministers’ conference.
Hamburg News: The EU has declared the Port of Hamburg a testing ground for the new 5G mobile communications standard. Has that created an important basis for technical transport projects? Can you outline them?
Horch: The first part of the research project focuses mainly on trying out 5G standards and laying the foundation for use in operations at the harbour and other traffic projects in future. They include managing technology equipped with sensors e.g. to gauge pollutants during the test period.
Hamburg News: If Hamburg is awarded the ITS World Congress in 2021, which we all hope for, would modern traffic projects in Hamburg be fast-tracked? Would people in Hamburg benefit from such measures?
Horch: It is a question of how traffic and mobility change in a digitalised world and how Hamburg’s traffic system can be developed under these circumstances and always with the goal of ensuring the safe, efficient and environment-friendly transport of people and goods in future.
The focus is always on possible solutions that improve links between all modes of transport, making it easier to find a parking space and without wasting too much time. People in Hamburg will benefit from cash-free payment systems and improved urban transport services. The trial of intelligent assistant systems should make everyday traffic safer and greater traffic light and building site management should improve the flow of traffic. Road traffic could be eased and become more effective by spreading the needs to different modes of transport.
Hamburg News: How much is the German government putting towards Hamburg’s candidacy?
Horch: Hamburg is financing its application alone. The German government is not paying any of the costs. However, we have discussed possible financial support for planning and hosting the ITS World Congress 2021 and are encouraged by the German government’s support for our plans. In the event of an award, we would activate funds between 2018 and 2021. Talks on that will only being held in the event of a successful candidacy. Then the actual contents and details of financing would have to be agreed.
Interview by Karolin Köcher