Free public transport no substitute for vehicle changes, Germany says

BERLIN (Reuters) - An eye-catching proposal to trial free public transport in some German cities as a means of cutting emissions from dirty private cars is not intended as a substitute for efforts to clean up cars already on the road, a government spokesman said.

Under pressure from the European Commission, which is threatening to penalize member states that breach EU rules on pollutant emissions, Germany has proposed a series of interim measures, also including low emissions zones.

But environment ministry spokesman Stefan Gabriel Haufe said on Wednesday these measures were not aimed at easing the burden on auto makers, who must pay for emissions-cutting modifications to diesel vehicles already on the roads.

“In the long run, you can’t reduce excess emissions levels in cities unless you cut nitrogen emissions from diesel engines,” he told a regular news conference. “We have seen speculations that we would like to reduce the burden on the car industry. That is absolutely not the case.”

Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Adrian Croft