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Europe

German Press Review: A Transport Fiasco

German papers focused on the delayed toll for large trucks that use the country's highways. The tolls won't be introduced for months now, thanks to the transport minister, they agreed.

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A brief respite for truckers: Still two more months until the toll

The toll system, which is supposed to help pay for Germany’s transport infrastructure, was originally planned to go into effect on August 31. But now it has been delayed until November. Both technical problems and an EU inquiry into the system have slowed down its introduction.

Financial Times Deutschland criticized German Transport Minister Manfred Stolpe for his failure to be up front with the public. “Manfred Stolpe argued rudely with the EU until the very last minute," wrote the paper. “And as late as Tuesday he denied accurate reports about the imminent delay of the toll." For a government, which had already been caught often enough providing false information -- and had a severe credibility problem as a result -- something like this is disastrous, said the paper.

The Kieler Nachrichten from northern Germany also viewed Manfred Stolpe's behavior critically. “In the end, even the sweet-talking Manfred Stolpe could no longer find any excuse,” stated the paper, and went on to describe how “with chattering teeth, the transport minister in Gerhard Schröder’s cabinet had to announce the delay of the truck toll.” The newspaper also pointed out that for weeks it had already been apparent that the toll could not be introduced on August 31, yet Stolpe ignored the warnings. Although he could not prevent technical difficulties or European Commission's looming inquiry, Stolpe was still responsible for the poor organization of a tremendous technical and logistical challenge, wrote the paper.

The Stuttgarter Zeitung summed up the introduction of the truck toll as “Bankruptcy, Bad Luck and Breakdown.” For years, the transport minister has been managing this project with a disturbing amount of amateurishness, wrote the paper. The consequence was that tolls would not be collected until November. Thus, the minister had succeeded in preventing chaos on the roads -- and just in the nick of time. But there was still one good thing about the “breakdown:” At least now Stolpe would have two extra months to put an end to the toll controversy with the EU. The paper said it hoped he would be able to accomplish at least that much.

Also on the subject of transportation, Berlin’s Tagesspiegel took a look at the new ticket sales structure from Germany's railway Deutsche Bahn. “It has finally happened,” wrote the paper, “The railways have changed their ticket sales structure again and are finally heeding their customers' wishes.” For months, Deutsche Bahn head Hartmut Mehdorn had rebuffed complaints about the reformed price structure, but then everything suddenly went quickly and within six weeks the company was forced to “reform the reform.” And the results look good, the Tagesspiegel observed. The new prices also inspired hope that other aspects of the railway’s service -- punctuality, customer care and sales service -- would also be improved, the paper wrote.