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The struggle with public transport in Upper Lusatia

Upper Lusatia is a rural area in the east of Saxony. It has a big problem concerning public transport. Currently there are two main rail lines, the Dresden-Görlitz and Dresden-Zittau lines. There are also a lot of bus lines, but they are mainly focused on the cities and not on the rural area around them. This article will focus on the area especially around Löbau and will give information about the problems in connection with bus and train there. It will also focus on the Zittau-Löbau rail line and how people signed a petition to keep the rail line alive. Furthermore, the article will show how the problem is handled in Leipzig and what Saxon government has in mind for the future.

Living in Löbau and surrounding area is nice because you have all the necessary stores nearby and you live in the green. But there is one problem, if you don’t work or go to school in Löbau you will need the bus, train or car to get there. The issue with train and bus is that they only drive once or twice per hour, and that is not regularly enough. The train usually drives twice per hour. If you are lucky, the bus drives once per hour. There are even busses which only drive about 7 times a day, and when you depend on those you will have to wait, in the words of one passenger, “a loooong time” if you miss it. In a world where climate change and protecting our environment are big issues, it is even worse that you can hardly depend on public transport to get to an appointment in time. There is a lack of alternatives for commuters in many places in Saxony. Reliable bus and train lines don’t exist and many communities don’t even have a train line anymore (cf. Julke 2019).So it is only rational to go by car for people who live in rural areas.

This effect only intensified when the rail line between Zittau and Löbau was closed down. People who were affected by that fought against it and signed a petition. In May 2019 the district assembly of Görlitz decided against the petition (cf. Menschner 2019). They are of the opinion that the costs for reactivation are too high. The goal is to make a bicycle route out of it (ibid.). In my opinion, that won’t solve any problems. As a matter of fact, many people who once went by train to Zittau now have to rely on their cars. The only alternative is to go by bus, which takes an hour to Zittau and no one is willing to do so when they can reach Zittau within 25 minutes. In the light of the fact that sustainability and climate protection are becoming more and more important, the trend of not investing money into public transports in rural areas is poor. How can we ever go without cars when the necessary infrastructure for public transport is hardly being developed[LA1] ?

At the moment, Leipzig is testing a new approach to solve the problem with public transport in rural areas. Since October 2019 they have a shuttle called “Flexa” on demand. So whenever someone needs to go, say, to the doctor, they send a request to the transport services of Leipzig via app. Soon after they receive a message when the shuttle will be there and pick them up (cf. Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk 2019).

I think this approach shows that something has gone terribly wrong with public transport, because it means that the already existing infrastructure is not enough to meet the demand. To my mind, it’s good that people from rural areas can reach their destination easily, but on the other hand shuttles are not better than cars. In the end, shuttles pollute the air as much as cars do.

But there is still hope for public transport in Upper Lusatia. The exploratory discussions of the prospective[LA2]  next Saxon state parliament have also included public transport. One million Saxon people will have access to public transport. In connection with that, they want to introduce a new consistent Saxon tariff and expand bicycle traffic (cf. Kollenberg 2019).

I am curious about what is going to happen, because I think the government (of Germany and Saxony) should invest more in public transportation. The government is supposed to provide good infrastructure for its citizens. In my opinion, they have already achieved that goal in the bigger cities but not in the rural areas. Due to few[LA3]  alternatives, it is impossible to go without a car in rural areas. The government is currently closing down rail tracks. And even new approaches do not seem to be the solution to me. The question is when will people be able to live without cars and instead be able to use public transport without limitations?

References

Julke, Ralf. Pro Bahnschreibt Michael Kretschmer einen Offenen Brief: Nichtmeckern, arbeiten!. Mitteldeutsche Online Medien Ltd., 28.09.2019, Leipzig, https://www.l-iz.de/wirtschaft/mobilitaet/2019/09/Pro-Bahn-schreibt-Michael-Kretschmer-einen-Offenen-Brief-Nicht-meckern-arbeiten-297525.

Kollenberg, Kai. Für eine Million Sachsen soll sich der Nahverkehr verbessern. Medien Union GmbH Ludwigshafen, 03.10.2019, Chemnitz, https://www.freiepresse.de/nachrichten/sachsen/fuer-eine-million-sachsen-soll-sich-der-nahverkehr-verbessern-artikel10627448

Menschner, Uwe. Aus der Traum von der wiederbelebten Bahnstrecke. LausitzerVerlagsService GmbH, 13.05.2019, Cottbus, https://www.lr-online.de/lausitz/weisswasser/aus-dem-goerlitzer-kreistag-aus-der-traum-von-der-wiederbelebten-bahnstrecke-38125354.html.

Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk. Leipziger Verkehrsbetriebe starten Pilotprojekt: Flexa-Kleinbusse auf Abruf. Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, 14.10.2019, Leipzig, https://www.mdr.de/sachsen/leipzig/leipzig-leipzig-land/lvb-dienst-flexa-leipzig-norden-rufbus-100.html