The Bundestag passed the controversial reform of passenger transport law on Friday with a large majority. The “Law for the Modernization of Passenger Transport Law” promoted by the Federal Ministry of Transport (BMVI) is intended to create space for new mobility offers and changes some of the regulations for taxi and rental car companies. In addition to the grand coalition, the Greens also voted for the reform. That is why resistance is no longer expected in the Federal Council.
Before that, there had been fierce opposition from the taxi industry to the liberalization of passenger transport. Especially in the big cities, taxi drivers and companies are faced with new competition from providers such as Uber and Drive Now as well as small shuttle buses. Especially the latter, which still operate with special permits in cities like Hanover (Moia) and Berlin (Berlkönig), should be placed on a firm legal basis with the new law.
Scheuer: “Fair compensation”
“We want modern and attractive passenger transport. We want to bring contemporary, digital sharing and on-demand services to the road and create a legally secure, innovation-friendly framework for this,” explained Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU). “And that without any competitive disadvantages for the previous providers such as taxis or public transport. Fair compensation and clear, effective control options for the municipalities in order to enable customized offers on site.”
This “fair balance” between taxis and the new, app-supported transport service providers was particularly hotly contested. Uber’s original business model of arranging rides for private individuals does not fit into the German legal framework. In the meantime, Uber and Drive Now operate in Germany on the basis of the regulations for rental cars with drivers. In contrast to taxis, rental cars have to return to their place of business after a tour and are not allowed to be available in the city area for other passengers.
“Obligation to return” dispute
Contrary to the original plans of the BMVI, this “obligation to return” remains in principle. Larger municipalities are now given the opportunity to designate additional waiting areas for rental cars in order to help avoid long empty journeys. Municipalities also have the opportunity to regulate the rental car sector more strictly if there is a threat of wild growth. The local knowledge test for taxi drivers has been abolished and replaced by a specialist test, which rental car drivers and shuttle drivers then also have to pass. An up-to-date navigation system is mandatory in the vehicle.
The taxi industry reacted with mixed feelings. “Have we achieved everything we wanted? No,” wrote Michael Oppermann, managing director of the Federal Association of Taxi and Rental Cars, to the association members. “But we have achieved a lot. The structure of the PBefG has been preserved. The taxi tariff and the obligation to return are basically retained.” For the first time, the law also enables additional rules in large cities “that are flooded by rental cars”. The argument with Uber will continue.
“The losers are the consumers”
The FDP transport politician Torsten Herbst criticized the reform was completely over-bureaucratized and cemented vested rights. “The big loser is the consumer.” The obligation to return will prevent offers in the country in particular. The Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) welcomed the fact that new providers will be able to travel with legal certainty in the future. The municipalities should now also work to ensure that new mobility services are made possible and not prevented. The digital association Bitkom sees “at most half a step in the right direction”. Instead of consistently using digital technologies, the analogue, climate-damaging status quo is anchored in law in central points.