The German cabinet has adopted a proposal put forward by transport minister Andreas Scheuer for an Investment Acceleration Act. It will allow the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) to accelerate planning and building.
With regards to the railways, the Act includes a number of measures. For example, certain construction activities on the railways will no longer require authorisation through a plan approval procedure, such as:
In these cases the environmental assessment will be made easier. For example, certain preliminary examinations might render subsequent assessments unnecessary.
Further, construction projects will also be able to get get off the ground immediately if they sit within the Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan or are otherwise infrastructure projects of national importance. Construction on these projects can commence as soon as the relevant authorisation is put in place. Appeals will not have the effect of suspending works.
There will be a speeding up of the process to get to the authorisation stage as well. Infrastructure projects are currently approved in a two-stage process in Germany. The first involves a spatial planning procedure during which there is an assessment of the project’s impact on the region it sits within. The second, then, is the procedure to approve the plan. In cases where no conflicts are expected, the spatial planning procedure will not be necessary. Lastly, the entire procedure will incorporate more digital features, such as online publications.
“We want to accelerate construction – for a strong economy and climate-friendly mobility. On the railways, we want to make it easier to electrify lines and deploy digital technologies, make platforms accessible for disabled people and construct noise barriers. We will accelerate authorisations, shorten court proceedings, make sure that construction go-ahead can be granted more quickly and streamline procedures. This way, we are addressing all the weak points of the process.”
There are a number of new rules that have already come into effect during this parliamentary term that will speed up planning processes. The Bundestag now has the legal ability to approve important environmentally friendly rail projects. Should replacement structures be needed, e.g. a replacement bridge, new approval procedures won’t be necessary. The German government is also relieving pressure on local authorities with regard to abolishing level crossings to allow construction work to start more promptly.
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