Events Transportation Policy Urban Transport

Better Transport, Better World? – Sustainable Transport at the 2nd World Transport Convention

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Can better transport create a better world? This question was at the heart of this year’s World Transport Convention.

From 19-21 June 2018, Chinese and international companies, ministries, institutions and related representatives in the transportation sector gathered to discuss this question and exchange views on recent developments, new products and new technologies.

GIZ representatives Sandra Retzer, Dr. Christoph Nedopil and Sebastian Ibold, as well as Siemens Senior Management Consultant for Cyber Security, Thomas Gereke, contributed with keynote speeches on sustainable transportation as well as data management and data security in Germany.

A large exhibition hall on the first floor, mostly filled with Chinese companies, displayed their recent technological developments. Different booths showcased the latest street sweepers and garbage trucks. Alibaba allowed visitors to follow real-time data showing Beijing’s traffic jam hot spots on multiple large screens in a futuristic setting. A gallery at the end of the hall gave on overview of recent and past achievements in the transport sector, while tracing them back to the groundwork of a “Xi Jinping Era of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”.

Various panel discussions happening simultaneously on the second floor offered the opportunity to engage in specific topics. At the “2nd Panel on Green Travelling”, around 150 participants and 10 speakers gathered for an in-depth exchange on “Sharing makes travelling more beautiful”. Among the speakers were not only representatives from municipal transport authorities in Beijing, Chengdu and Guangdong, but also from key players in the shared mobility industry, such as Didi Chuxing, GoFun, Meituan Dianping, and EVCARD. While the official authorities highlighted current regulatory hurdles for shared mobility services, the company representatives spoke about recent developments and challenges in the car-sharing sector, also showcasing latest autonomous driving innovations. Researchers from the Word Resource Institute (WRI) complemented the round of presentations with recent scientific insights on shared mobility statistics and market analysis.

All speakers agreed that the sector urgently needs to be standardized, but although the different actors are seeking international regulatory best practices, Mr. Liu Daizong from WRI underlined that the Chinese transport authorities will need to abandon traditional transportation regulations for shared mobility services, as those will not be applicable.

“Instead of changing existing laws, [we] should create new regulations for the shared mobility sector”, he argued.

In his keynote speech on “Shared Mobility in Germany – lessons learnt and to be learnt”, Dr. Christoph Nedopil continued on the question of shared mobility regulations by giving examples of different shared mobility practices in Germany and how the Federal Government supports them.

Dr. Nedopil presented “Shared Mobility in Germany – lessons learnt and to be learnt”.

Germany has been an early innovator and adopter of shared mobility services. The German Government has put beneficial regulations and subsidies in place to support shared mobility. To date, a large part of the German population remains hesitant towards the concept of sharing their vehicles – especially via digital apps. Reasons include concerns over data privacy, availability and comfort. In addition, use of private vehicles remains cheap (e.g. due to cheaply available parking, also within cities). As Dr. Nedopil pointed out, shared mobility is a key pillar of de-carbonizing transportation and should be seen as an integral part of a wider mobility eco-system, e.g. together with public transportation.

Sebastian Ibold introduced the Berlin "Radbahn" as an example for sustainable city planning.On the second day of the convention, Sebastian Ibold shared his insights on cycling as a form of sustainable mobility from a holistic urban planning perspective. He illustrated the concept with the example of the Berlin “Radbahn”, a roofed cycling lane to be built below a metro line. Not only will this project make Berlin more cycling-friendly, but it bears the potential to become a lifeline within the city by attracting shops and tourists along the route.

Sandra Retzer presented the “German Path to Green and Low Carbon Transport”.After the diesel scandal has received strong criticism globally, the German automotive industry has suffered significant reputation losses. Sandra Retzer’s keynote speech on the “German Path to Green and Low Carbon Transport” investigated this issue from the larger perspective of environmental policies in Germany and the EU. Despite this scandal, she concluded, some best practices in the transport sector show that Germany is already on a good track to low-carbon logistics, e.g. with Siemens and Scania’s e-trucks, the DHL street scooter and a green port in Hamburg.

Thomas Gereke from Siemens further expanded the scope of this panel with his presentation on “E-mobility and Predictive Maintenance”. He explained that sensors inside buses and trains may allow for early damage detection, potentially increasing the vehicles’ availability, but cybersecurity issues are becoming more and more relevant not only as autonomous driving progresses, but also as charging infrastructure for new energy vehicles turns out to be potentially vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks.

Despite a somewhat effusive motto and a noticeable degree of greenwashing throughout the exhibition, this convention offered valuable opportunities to exchange on recent development, achievements and challenges in the transport sector. The speakers provided interesting insights into challenges and technological progresses, and achieved helpful consensus on where the main challenges for the promotion of shared mobility lie. “Green transport” itself, unfortunately, was generally underrepresented in the convention, and barely mentioned in the “Green Travelling” panel discussion. However, given that this convention only launched last year, more topics related to sustainable mobility may find their way into these panels in the future, for all of the highly competent participants certainly make this occasion a fertile ground for making mobility more sustainable. Then, you may finally say: Better transport creates a better world.

Anna Si-Lu Hauser works as Junior Researcher in the Sino-German Cooperation on Low Carbon Transportation as well as in the Sino-German Energy Partnership. She holds a Bachelor degree in Asian Studies and is currently doing a Master degree in “China Business and Economics” at Würzburg University, with a focus on sustainable development in China and business ethics.

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