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Public participation in transport projects

Source: Fotolia / fotogestöber

The modernization and upgrading of our transport infrastructure is a major prerequisite for prosperity and economic growth. The export of goods is of crucial importance for Germany, and it is here, perhaps more than anywhere else, that we are reliant on a good system of freight transport. And our citizens want to be – indeed, have to be – mobile, not only to get to work, education/training and the shops, but also in their leisure time. Nor is it possible to encourage more use of environmentally friendly modes of transport, such as the railways, without upgrading the relevant infrastructure. At the same time, however, transport investment frequently places a strain on people living in the vicinity of the schemes, with noise emissions being one of the main causes. Protests against and opposition to the upgrading of the transport infrastructure are the consequence.

One of the reasons for this is that many members of the public feel that they are not involved sufficiently and, above all, not early enough, even though there is already legal provision for participation at all levels of transport infrastructure planning. In practice, however, people are frequently not reached, which means that new forms of public participation accompanying the planning process are required. The aim must be to involve the public in major infrastructure projects to a greater extent and, above all, at an earlier stage.

Thus, in November 2012, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure published a "Manual for Good Public Participation in the Planning of Major Transport Projects in the Transport Sector". This manual can be downloaded by clicking on the link below. The manual is addressed to all those who have responsibility in the sphere of planning and approval procedures and to the general public. It contains proposals as to how existing formal participation (dark blue) at the various procedural levels can be improved and complemented by informal participatory steps (light blue).

Manual for Good Public Participation in the Planning of Major Transport Projects in the Transport Sector
Overview of the procedural levels in the planning, approval and delivery of federal transport infrastructure

Source: BMVI

The proposals relate to practical measures that can be applied over the short term and that can be used to deliver timely and continuous public participation. The proposals regarding formal participation involve, for instance, making the legally required public exhibition of planning documents more citizen-friendly (for instance publication on the Internet, citizens' surgeries), conducting a public local inquiry as part of the spatial impact assessment procedure as well, and making the procedure as a whole transparent. As far as informal participation is concerned, it is proposed, for instance, that the stakeholders who are to participate be identified before the procedure commences, that a project-related strategy for participation be drawn up and that the public also be appropriately included in planning activities before the formal planning stages (publications on the Internet, public participation events, etc.)
However, decisions as to what instruments – e.g. Internet information, public meetings or round tables – are to be used and at what time must be taken on a case-by-case basis, depending on the situation on the ground. Rigid requirements are of no use here. Every project is different. There is no "one size fits all" solution.


The manual is based on an analysis of various transport projects that have involved informal public participation. In the spring of 2012, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure conducted an extensive consultation exercise on the draft manual. This included an online consultation that was open to all members of the public. The evaluation of this consultation exercise can also be downloaded by clicking on the link below.