The Future of Mobility - Getting more people on board collective transport
The following blog is a summary of the discussion and quotes mobility experts who were part of the panel “Looking back to look forward: The Future of Mobility” organized on the occasion of the 10 year celebration of Flix. You can see the recording of the entire discussion here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1psFfleaBt8
At the panel moderated by Janna Linke, Host and Editor ntv Startup Magazin, the following speakers were present in person: Kristian Schmidt, Director Land Transport, Directorate General Mobility and Transport, European Commission; Umberto de Pretto, Secretary General, IRU; Dr. Andrea Giuricin, Transport Expert and Adj. Prof. and André Schwämmlein, Flix CEO and Co-founder. Video messages were sent by in order of appearance: Dr. Markus Söder, MdL, Minister-President of Bavaria, Clément Beaune, Minister of Transport, France; Volker Wissing, Federal Minister for Transport, Germany and Jim Tymon, Executive Director, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, US.
Freedom of movement and as a result access to transport is a central issue in our societies - it contributes to people’s quality of life, ensuring that they can reach their jobs, see friends and family, get an education and healthcare, or have a holiday.
Given its major impact on society, the economy, and the environment, mobility should aim to democratize, decentralize, and decarbonize – making sure that more people from even the most remote places can travel sustainably.
The European Union was built to ensure peace and freedom without internal borders, and this is also echoed when Kristian Schmidt, Director Land Transport at EU’s executive arm in charge of mobility, says he envisions a Europe that is not only a single market, but a single place for people.
An EU success that perhaps people appreciate the most is the freedom of movement across countries and for that, transport is key, in good and bad times. That’s why, for decades, there have been efforts to make sure that people have the same level of access, quality, safety, and choice of transport.
Still, for Europe to truly be one continent, one transport network, one market, where people move without efforts irrespective of borders, it’s necessary to break down barriers and make it possible for people to travel more freely in a collective, affordable, and sustainable way.
The EU has been working to allow all operators, both state-owned and private, to offer services, to increase the number of offers, and improve travel options for passengers, making travel more adapted to the needs of travelers. While there has been progress, there is still a long way to go.
There’s been a lot of progress in Europe but more needs to be done.
Looking at road and rail travel, market opening carries benefits for the passengers, the economy and industry as well as the states themselves. André Schwämmlein, CEO at Flix, explains: “There has not been a single case in transport where opening the market has not been a positive situation. ”
As Germany’s Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing said:
“Sometimes success stories can start with dull administrative jargon […] [such] as the Law Amending Passenger Transportation Regulations […] [which] liberalized the long-distance bus market in Germany.”
In the bus industry, while services can run across countries, in some countries new operators still can’t offer domestic services on their territory. One of the most prominent examples is Spain, where the system is based on high regulatory barriers, resulting in higher prices of tickets and a loss of passengers. In contrast, in France and Italy, operators are working hard to improve their services and win over passengers, resulting in growing passenger numbers.
As the French Transport Minister Clément Beaune said:
“The number of passengers transported has increased rapidly and has even exceeded in 2019 the projections made at the time of the opening of the market.” He added that “in 2019, almost 2 million passengers would not have traveled without the liberalization of the French [coach] market.”
Rail is still dominated by the historical state-owned companies, with a lot of resistance to change the market and allow more competition which would benefit passengers in the same way as for bus.
Andrea Giuricin, travel expert and adj. Professor, explains, that “In Italy, the liberalization of rail markets has led to the emergence of new players offering new services, resulting in a doubling of demand, without investing in more infrastructure, and a 35-40% decrease in prices”.
Kristian Schmidt, summarizes the benefits of competition in rail:
“In rail, we need more affordable train tickets. Taxpayers should not have to compensate for cheaper tickets. Instead, we should look to markets where there has been vibrant competition. Ridership has gone up, pricing has gone down, and everyone has benefited from a bigger cake.”
In short, from the EU side, the framework is set in place, and now it’s up to the countries to walk the talk. Successful examples show us that it’s more than possible and beneficial for the passengers and the environment.
Buses and trains play a key role for a greener way of travelling
To make the most of the potential of collective transport buses and trains should be regarded as complementary. Long-distance buses are a flexible and affordable option for people who want to reach small or remote places while trains take larger groups of people to bigger transport hubs.
As the Executive Director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Jim Tymon said: “It is extremely important that we have a multimodal system that is robust and that includes alternatives like inter-city passenger bus and rail.”
André Schwämmlein, agreed: “We need to create an offer, with buses and rail together, that makes it possible for people to switch from individual transport to collective transport”.
A good intermodal offer
, reduces the number of cars on the road, addressing the problems of congestion and carbon footprint of travel. Think of it this way, just one bus replaces over 30 cars and emits 81% less CO₂ per passenger-kilometer than a car.
Umberto de Pretto, Secretary General at IRU, explains “Buses and coaches are the cleanest ways of road transport, the biggest challenge is how to provide services that make people say ‘I will just leave my car at home and get on this bus because it makes more sense, it’s a good service’.
“Ultimately, we need a level playing field where all modes of transport complement each other,” Umberto de Pretto adds.
The time is now to set the foundation for how we’ll travel in the future
Looking ahead, to incentivize passengers to take collective transport, such offers need to be better adapted, flexible, affordable, and sustainable.
To make it possible, the rules of the game have to be fair and equal for all players. In practice, this means for example as Markus Söder the Bavarian Minister President said that “We have to find a solution to include long-distance buses in the ‘Deutschlandticket.’”
The next 10 years will bring their new challenges and opportunities, but one thing is sure, the future is collective, and we need to set the foundations now.