Better Public Participation in Major Transport Projects – Timely, Open and Continuous
Andreas Matthes, Federal Ministry Of Transport, Building And Urban Development, Iris Reimold, Federal Ministry Of Transport, Building And Urban Development
To reconcile the wishes of the public and the requirements of infrastructure as far as possible, we need public participation right from the outset.
In Germany, as in many other countries, the planning and construction of significant transport projects repeatedly involves arguments, conflicts and even, in some cases, paralyzing blockades because the public feel left out. And yet German planning law already contains a range of statutory rules governing public participation. However, the discussions that have taken place in the recent past show that it is frequently not possible to reach the public.
The Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development takes the desire for better public participation and people’s fears that they will suffer from the adverse impacts of projects very seriously. At the same time, we are convinced that Germany, as a European transit country, needs efficient and modern infrastructure if we are to preserve our prosperity.
To reconcile the wishes of the public and the requirements of infrastructure as far as possible, we need public participation right from the outset. The participation must start to look for workable solutions at an early stage. This is also the underlying approach of the new “Manual for Good Public Participation in Major Projects in the Transport Sector”. The Federal Minister of Transport, Building and Urban Development, Dr Peter Ramsauer, presented this manual in Berlin in November 2012. The manual is based on the findings of a research project and on an extensive consultation exercise involving members of the public, experts, federal states and trade associations.
The manual is addressed to developers, approval authorities and the public and demonstrates how more intensive use can be made of the existing statutory participation and how it can be augmented by further informal measures. It should be seen as a kind of "toolkit" with practice-based measures that can be implemented in the short term to ensure better public participation.
These include, for instance:
• analyses of stakeholders and a process architecture for pre-project participation measures;
• the timely and continuous deployment of the media and the Internet;
• briefings and discussions, especially in the early stages of planning;
• if appropriate, the deployment of continuous dialogue forums or round tables.
The manual focuses on timeliness, openness, continuity, transparency and a positive culture of participation that sees participation as an opportunity and not as a risk.
The Federal Government is also creating more transparency and more options for participation in its own sphere of long-term strategic transport infrastructure planning. In June 2012, the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development thus presented a strategy for the participation of the public in the preparation of the 2015 Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan.
Public participation will not be successful unless all stakeholders adopt a positive attitude towards participation and exploit the inherent opportunities for the benefit of everyone.
Association for European Transport