By the end of this week I will finally know my fate – on Friday 24th November the congress of the German Grüne will vote for the party’s list of candidates for its European Parliament, and I hope to be elected to position 14 on the list.
Having worked on railway projects for years, and having built up the Trains for Europe campaign and the #CrossBorderRail project, how to fix the problems of Europe’s cross border railways is central to my bid.
However – as is generally my way of trying to do politics – I want to propose things that the European Union could do (i.e. that the Treaties give the EU power to act), but also that as a Member of the European Parliament I could realistically have a chance of getting fixed in a 5 year term.
That has led to a focus on two topics – fixing the EU-wide railway ticket booking system through an open data obligation, and finding a way for the EU to coordinate the procurement of a large fleet of night trains.
Neither of these are without their problems. The state owned rail companies, notably Deutsche Bahn, are dead set against more data sharing. And the idea that no one wants to take night trains is a hard one to shake in the media debate. But in both cases I think there is enough public support, and a solid organisational rationale to attempt both.
However the problem, politically, is a different one.
Both of these proposals are a bit uninspiring. They’re technical, procedural. Improving what is currently done, but not in any way revolutionary.
Are they, I ask myself as I draft and re-draft my congress speech, adequately appealing to resonate with the members who would have to vote for me?
And then what drops into my social media feed this morning? The CDU-SPD government in Berlin is proposing spending €80m on a Maglev for the city. Tagesschau covers it, unquestioningly. Spiegel, Heise, Tagesspiegel, T-Online all join in.
What are the chances this happens? Very, very low. For €80m? Zero. Berlin even had a Maglev in the 1980s and early 1990s – the M-Bahn.
The city ought to build bike lanes, tram lines, or even make a start on U-Bahn projects with this money instead. But, just like my ticketing platforms and night trains those things are boring but workable. Communicating about a Maglev is easy. Explaining workable proposals is hard.
I have no option but to trust that Grüne members care about workable politics enough this week, and are not hoping for techno-utopianism in EU transport policy. But a transport policy future where communicable but unworkable ideas are prioritised over the very real changes we need now is not going to go away, however hard we try.