BERLIN (Reuters) - A planned fund to improve urban transport infrastructure in Germany may be doubled in size to a billion euros when Chancellor Angela Merkel meets on Monday with representatives of towns particularly affected by diesel emissions, media reported.
Germany’s car industry, which employs about 800,000 people and is the country’s biggest exporter, is under intense pressure to cut diesel fumes almost two years after Volkswagen admitted to deliberately cheating U.S. pollution tests.
Regional newspapers Stuttgarter Zeitung and Stuttgarter Nachrichten said the volume of the fund, which is to be used to build more charging stations for electric cars and for switching to electric buses among other things, was likely to be doubled as long as Germany’s federal states bear some of the costs. The newspapers cited no source for the information.
Merkel had previously said about 500 million euros or more would be made available to the planned fund.
After the media reports, Volker Kauder, a senior member of Merkel’s conservatives, told Focus magazine that perhaps more help was needed.
Economics Minister Brigitte Zypries, a Social Democrat, agreed in a statement issued late Friday.
“Local communities can’t do it on their own. We in the federal government must support them and to do that we need additional funds from the federal budget,” said Zypries, a member of the junior partner in Merkel’s ruling coalition.
Merkel told Der Spiegel magazine that she was furious about how the German car industry misled customers, in an interview published on Friday.
But she said she continues to oppose a call by Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, also a Social Democrat, to retrofit diesel cars because such measures would be expensive and technically extremely challenging.
“We have to think very carefully about whether such retrofit requirements for engines would really bring about the results we need because we would reduce the industry’s ability to invest in new and modern technologies,” she said.
Reporting by Michelle Martin, Gernot Heller and Andrea Shalal; editing by Ralph Boulton and Andrew Heavens