An interview with Gerrit Poel from VDV

The Verband der Deutschen Verkehrsunternehmen (VDV = Association of German Transport Companies) is an association representing its member companies, mostly providers of public transport services. In six general committees and 19 expert committees, more than 400 experts work on the challenges of the transport sector. Gerrit Poel is the general manager for the VDV section of Bavaria and responsible for the coordination of questions on sustainability in VDV.

As an association of about 600 member companies, which overarching goal serves as a common and fundamental basis for your activities?

Representing such a big number of member companies is surely the reason why we have to address such a variety of fields and challenges. But no matter which subject we are discussing, all our solutions are based on a common conviction: we believe that public transport plays a key role in solving mayor social challenges:
1. Public transport contributes to environmental and climate protection by offering great potentials in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Its bundling effects reduce traffic volumes and hence lead to a specifically lower energy requirement compared to motorized private transport, especially due to the high level of electrification that public transport can benefit from. Using public transport means sharing resources and therefore limiting the risks of resource scarcity.
2. Effective and well-developed public transport systems are inevitable to tackle problems occurring from structural and demographic change.
3. Public transport presents solutions to effectively manage the rising traffic volumes and simultaneously guarantee for a high level of quality of life in the cities. On the one hand, it prevents the cities transport systems from collapsing and on the other hand it helps avoiding air pollutants from local emissions.

How do you promote changes in travel behaviour?

To effectively change travel behaviour, there are two main concepts which cannot be separated from each other.
First of all, a dense transport offer is needed. The transport system has to provide solutions for all possible mobility needs people may have. Therefore the urban transport system does not only need a dense offer in the city itself, but it also has to be integrated in the greater regional transportation system to effectively connect the city with surrounding areas.
Secondly, the transportation offer has to be accessible for everyone. Therefore attractive and affordable tariffs for every kind of user are needed.

Which strategy could contribute to improving the relationship of public transport and shared mobility?

First of all we have to realise that these two go hand in hand. We have to understand, that public transport is the number one tool of shared mobility. In buses and train, people have been sharing rides for decades. Linking public transport and all the new offers of shared mobility presents a lot of chances for the urban transport system. It is necessary to create optimum linking points, so that users can easily switch between the means of transport – with all of them being integral blocks of individually designed mobility concepts. It is hence necessary to designate space to these linkages between public transport and shared mobility services on public roads and in public places. Though, station based sharing systems with electric vehicles have to be favoured, as these present the best opportunities to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Studies have shown that free floating car sharing offers do not reduce the volume of motorized private transport.

Could you briefly point out what would be an important concept to encourage the transition towards carbon-free transport (Verkehrswende) in emerging and developing countries?

There is no such thing as “the” single one concept for all cities. Transport transition policies have to be based on local conditions, featuring several aspects: the size of the city or agglomeration, available funds etc. To help develop concepts for the Verkehrswende, the VDV can offer best-practice-examples from its member companies. The results achieved there, especially in terms of environmental and social benefits, can provide helpful knowledge on how to implement such ideas and on how to make them practicable in other cities.

For more information please visit the VDV Website.