If you are familiar with Neckarsulm and the - let’s say - ‘associated’ Heilbronn, you’ll know the role that cars play. Not only for the economy, but for getting around. Cycle routes were practically unknown until a few years ago. The Neckar is screened off from ramblers and nature lovers by the many busy roads. In addition, to this day, Heilbronn is the only large German city with no regular IC or ICE train connection.* The public transport is - as in many regions - pretty sparse. At night, things are pretty grim where buses and trains are concerned. On the other hand, there is hardly any city with a more perfect motorway connection. Whether to the north, south, west or east - you can put your foot down and speed off. If you want to get around without a car in Neckarsulm and the surrounding area, you’ll need to think of an alternative or go by foot.
* During BUGA, a hugely successful event which took place in Heilbronn in 2019, a few ICE trains stopped. To this day, Heilbronn is still a temporary ICE train station. But only until the fast track between Stuttgart and Mannheim is up and running again. Although there are plans to adopt Heilbronn as a regular IC train station in the train network for 2028. We shall see.
So it’s no wonder that in Neckarsulm almost three quarters of csi colleagues come to work by car. Admittedly, this is not sustainable. What can be done to change things here? We are not asking ourselves this question, rather it is the subject of Julia Orowitsch’s Bachelor’s thesis.
Julia successfully completed her Bachelor’s degree in ‘International Project Engineering’ at the Reutlingen University at the start of the year. Born in Sindelfingen and raised in the region of Heilbronn, the 23-year-old dealt with the subject of how important mobility is for people as well as societal progress and economic growth in her Bachelor’s thesis, ‘Development of a sustainable mobility concept for small and medium sized companies in metropolitan areas’. At the same time, she made it clear how cities in particular are suffering due to the increasing number of vehicles, the emissions given off when driving, the noise they cause and the large amount of space taken up by roads and parking spaces. Solutions are therefore needed to relieve the traffic infrastructure, make the government’s climate goals attainable and provide residents and employees with a more pleasant and simpler mode of mobility.
But how can this be done? On the search for sensible approaches, existing mobility concepts in several cities and companies were analysed according to various scientific methods in her Bachelor’s thesis. Ultimately this came to the result that (up to now) there is no sustainable mobility concept which fulfils the various needs of all the employees. Rather, different concepts must be offered in order to motivate people to leave the car at home and get to the company a different way.
What now? What happens next?
One result from Julia’s Bachelor’s thesis is that we are simply too small with our roughly 180 employees at the Neckarsulm branch to save the world by ourselves. Well, more or less. No, but seriously, the thesis made it clear how important cooperation is between different companies, cities and people in order to reduce the traffic levels together. Because only when lots of people are prepared to leave their own comfort zone and the infrastructural prerequisites are available can change be successful.
That’s why the Bachelor’s thesis and successful completion of her degree more for Julia than just a start to her career at csi: she now needs to put into action what she developed in theory.
To this end - before corona struck - she had prepared everything to accelerate the transition to bicycles in the company. A Bike Bonus was supposed to have been introduced by mid-April. This may have been delayed, but it won’t only be a health pay-out at csi for peddle pushing in the future. Moreover, Julia is working on organising car-pooling, introducing a job ticket and the option to develop a shuttle service.
The first discussions with the city of Neckarsulm have already been held. Large regional companies such as AUDI, Bechtle and the Schwarz Group, which includes Lidl and Kaufland, are in line to be brought on board. If it works, a cross-company carpool should soon be formed and a shuttle solution for the last miles from the train station to the company is a good step closer. Then Julia - with her brand-new e-car - will certainly rarely find herself travelling alone. So, let’s keep our fingers crossed!