Countries want to control Autobahn GmbH more closely

Berlin The state of North Rhine-Westphalia wants to control the federal autobahn GmbH. This emerges from a coalition decision of the Union and FDP, which is available to the Handelsblatt. According to this, the state government should exert massive influence on the federal government and the new company and “intensively” support the development process of the Autobahn GmbH “in the sense of a continued rapid completion of the motorway projects”. A “monitoring committee” is also to be set up.

The new federal motorway company will take over responsibility for the motorways from January 1, 2021. With a head office in Berlin and ten branches as well as 41 branch offices, instead of the 16 federal states, it is to maintain, maintain, expand and build new highways. In future, the GmbH and no longer the state administrations will determine what happens to the 13,000 kilometers of motorways in Germany.

But not only in North Rhine-Westphalia, but also in other federal states, doubts about the performance of society are growing. The reorganization resolved by the federal and state governments in 2017 as part of the financial reform is causing considerable problems. It is now clear that Autobahn GmbH will not be able to provide all services from a single source at the start, which was actually the aim of the reform.

For example, the project company Deges, to which the federal government and most of the federal states have transferred individual projects, could not be merged with Autobahn GmbH as originally planned. The new motorway company will therefore have to commission Deges for a number of years. It will also be dependent on support from the federal states for years to come.

Keeping an eye on the construction projects

Accordingly, the federal states want to have a say again, even if the Basic Law has been specifically amended and responsibilities have been reorganized. “We want to have more than one eye on the construction projects,” said Klaus Voussem, transport policy spokesman for the CDU in the Düsseldorf state parliament, the Handelsblatt. The resolution paper, which the state parliament is supposed to adopt in October, states that the advisory committee should “inform the state parliament and the public regularly about the transport projects in the state”, namely about “progress, but also about difficulties and grievances” be the committee “contact person for municipal representatives and the people” to ensure acceptance for construction projects.

With the demand, NRW wants to ensure that the “advanced planning, approval and construction ramp-up” is continued. There is an enormous need for investment, the “construction West” is still necessary, it says in the decision. The road construction administration “Straßen NRW” has hired a number of planners and engineers in recent years. Since then, the state has built significantly more funds, even more than the federal government has made available. This year alone it is a total of 1.8 billion euros. A few years ago it was different: North Rhine-Westphalia could not block its money due to a lack of ready-to-build projects, so that states such as Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg were allowed to invest the money elsewhere.

Fear of a “black hole”

In Düsseldorf there is great hope that other federal states will join the demand for influence on the Autobahn GmbH and also demand an advisory committee for their federal state. “I can well imagine that other federal states will be in the same vein,” said Voussem.

With the initiative, North Rhine-Westphalia wants to prevent the new motorway company from creating an organization that is as difficult to see through as Deutsche Bahn or the water and shipping administration. There is talk of “black holes” in the federal institutions – that is, of non-transparent organizations that at the same time massively shape the infrastructure in the country.

The federal budget for the Autobahn GmbH provides 5.5 billion euros for investments in the first year if it takes sole responsibility for the freeways of the republic. A further 1.8 billion euros have so far been earmarked for the tasks of the GmbH at headquarters and on site, but this should not be enough. The unrest shortly before the start is correspondingly great among all those involved, the federal states, the motorway company and the Deges project company.

After the merger of the two companies was abandoned in mid-September, the management tried to calm down with a letter to the workforce. “Autobahn and Deges continue to work hand in hand,” it said. A new service contract will be concluded for this purpose. “The reform goal – to realize the planning, construction and operation of motorways from a single source in the future – remains unchanged,” the management continued. “This will also be an essential task for the branches from 2021 onwards.”

In North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, at least 2,000 current state employees will in future handle road services and ongoing projects for Autobahn GmbH. The failed merger of Deges, however, has an advantage for the countries involved: They can continue to control the construction projects via the supervisory board.

More: The search for the bosses of the German autobahns was so chaotic.

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