Ex-Federal Minister of Transport Andreas Scheuer (CSU) was rarely at a loss for superlatives anyway. Shortly before the federal elections in September 2021, Scheuer found pithy words for a new prestige project, even by his standards. In August he opened the German Center for Future Mobility in Munich with all sorts of prominent politicians. Scheuer predicted that it would be a real “lighthouse with international appeal”. It’s about cars, trains and ships that drive autonomously, according to the campaigner and promised 400 million euros in the next few years. “The world public is looking at Germany on this day,” said Scheuer.
But the world public has so far learned little about the project. And it threatens to stay that way. Because the new traffic light government is obviously massively trimming the financial plans for the controversial project. According to the Federal Ministry of Transport, only ten million euros could flow out of the 44.5 million euros set for the first year. The prestige project can apparently no longer count on the 278 million euros planned for this and the next two budget years. The center hasn’t even been established yet.
Although the idea was presented in March 2020, little has been done about Scheuer’s project so far. According to earlier information, experts from science and business should research new mobility systems with the money in Munich and at other locations. The center should include several chairs and a practice campus. How exactly the million-euro project presented at the height of the election campaign should look like has only become more concrete very slowly in recent months. First of all, a founding advisory board was set up, headed by Professor Wolfgang Herrmann, the former president of the Technical University. Since October, however, after some activities in September and October, the Center itself has not published any press releases.
The Greens and FDP saw the investment as a CSU election gift
Scheuer’s plan was politically controversial from the start. Greens and FDP accused him of a lack of concept and saw the award of the expensive center to Munich as a CSU election gift. The fact that parts of the center were located in other federal states did not smooth the waves.
Accordingly, the CSU is now reacting with outrage to the federal government’s plans to cut funding for the project. The Bavarian Minister of Construction and Transport, Christian Bernreiter, spoke of a “blow against Bavaria”. He insists that “the promised money will be provided”. In a joint statement with Bernreiter, Science Minister Markus Blume also sharply attacked the federal government. “It is unacceptable that cuts are made where investments in research and innovation are concerned,” criticized Blume. Apparently there are no longer any great hopes for the implementation of the plans in Munich either. “With the obviously planned reduction, the federal government is getting out of the traffic planning of the future in the middle of the journey.”
Construction Minister Bernreiter does not want to give up the CSU’s plans, which were originally so expensive, without a fight and, according to his own statement, asked Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) in mid-April to “commit to the previous agreements and to reliably base the planning for the next steps on them I haven’t received an answer yet,” said Bernreiter.
The Munich City Council has, however, expressed its support for the project. Except for the FDP and Linke/Die Party, all parliamentary groups were in favor of an emergency motion from the CSU. “The reduction in funding that has now taken place is an enormous mistake and a serious blow to the local science and business location with nationwide consequences,” it says. The governing parties are urged to keep the funding at the promised level; the location must remain Munich. One is “not inclined to make a slimmed down version,” said Mayor Dieter Reiter (SPD). “That’s not what we mean by innovation.”