"...from the town hall" - 28.03.2024

Dear fellow residents,

Many people ask themselves: Why are there so many buses driving through our region?

Since mid-December, we have been experiencing a bus passing through our area "every few minutes", as one resident put it. Some people like this - because they can now leave their cars at home more often - while others are annoyed by the large number of buses. You can never please everyone.

But what you can do is provide information about the background. Hopefully this will not only lead to better acceptance, but also to more intensive use.

The new district administrator, Ms. Anke Beilstein, invited the mayors of the villages and towns in the district of Cochem-Zell to a mayors' meeting on 13.3.2024. One of the items on the agenda was the situation in local public transport and the associated budget deficit of the district. In agreement with the District Administrator, I would like to inform you, dear residents, about this meeting.

A lot has changed in both school and local public transport. While schoolchildren used to travel separately on school transport, this has now been completely absorbed into local public transport. In the past, private bus companies operated local public transport services on their own account under concession contracts. These contracts expired. The conversion of the school transport/local public transport system desired by the state is to be financed from state financial equalization funds. However, this has brought significant changes that also affect the financing of local public transport.

There are so-called "line bundles" within the district. The "Moselschleifen" and "Blankenrath" bundles are of interest to us. The district put these bundles out to public tender back in December 2022. The result: no bus company wanted to take over routes again on its own account. The bundles were therefore put out to tender again across Europe in May 2023. Result: only one bidding consortium with local companies submitted a bid.

The district council therefore had no choice but to accept this offer. Otherwise, a so-called emergency award would have had to be made, which would have entailed even higher costs. The bidding consortium was therefore awarded the contract for the duration of the ten-year tender.

As school transport was transferred to local public transport, there were considerable changes. Whereas the private bus operators used to take the children to nursery or school in the morning and the bus drivers then parked the buses and had "free time" until the return journey, the times are now all counted as working time and paid for. This means that school transport must be guaranteed and paid for from around 6.30 a.m. until around 6.30 p.m. in the evening.

Ensuring school transport went hand in hand with an expansion and opening up of local public transport. As parents ultimately decide which school their children attend, many journeys have to be organized and carried out during the day to the various school locations.

As Ms. Beilstein explained, there was an additional need for 72 bus drivers. This number of new bus drivers could not and cannot be generated on the German labor market. New bus drivers were therefore sought throughout Europe. Training bus drivers who do not speak the language is of course a challenge, especially as they had to be deployed in the current bus services at the same time. The district administration is also making sustained efforts in this sector to achieve improvements with the bus companies. Incidentally, it was only necessary to add two new buses to the service. Old buses were replaced with new environmentally friendly buses.

The district administration is monitoring which routes may be dispensable in the extended public transport service and can be removed. This cannot be summarized after a few days or weeks. The district will decide on this in due course.

One point of criticism was that drivers do not sell tickets to passengers, or only with considerable difficulty. District Administrator Beilstein emphasized that irregularities should be reported to the district administration immediately, stating the line and time - Tel. 115.

The income from the bus trips is used to cover the expenses of the district. Ultimately, we all pay the missing funds to the district via the local authority levy. Without a ticket, the passenger is a "fare dodger". The district feels compelled by the many complaints to carry out random checks. Every passenger should therefore insist on being issued with a ticket.

In the rural district of Cochem-Zell, we all grew up with very limited public transport services. For us, having our own car was generally a matter of course, while "city dwellers" used and still use public transport as a matter of course.

The new extensive public transport services are an opportunity to reverse this trend. For example, residents from the Barl can now travel to the town center at short intervals and those from the valley to destinations in the Barl (e.g. hospital, shopping centers, workplace, etc.) or to the trains in Bullay. Even in the evening hours and into the night.

Of course, we don't have as many inhabitants in rural areas as a larger city. That's why not as many passengers use the bus in comparison. I think that there will be a rethink over time. Now that the tourist season is starting, every landlord should offer their guests public transport not only for the journey to and from the Barl, but also especially for their excursions in the surrounding area.

The district of Cochem-Zell, together with other districts and the Landkreistag, is in talks with the state of Rhineland-Palatinate regarding the financing of the additional costs. There is still a need for clarification here.

In this context, Ms. Beilstein's comments are interesting: "We have had the Rhine-Moselle Transport Association (VRM) calculate what the cost situation would be if the transport services for schoolchildren and daycare centers in the relevant line bundles in the district were simply awarded. With net expenditure of € 24.951 million, this would have been around € 300,000 more expensive than the overall package of "school transport plus public transport services in accordance with the RLP Nord public transport concept".

Give the new expanded public transport service a chance - use the public transport services! And one more request: If you purchase a "Deutschland-Ticket", please contact the Cochem-Zell district administration - Tel. 115.


I wish all residents, guests and visitors to our town a blessed and happy Easter.


Town Mayor

Hans-Peter Döpgen