Germany to introduce €49 ticket for public transport

The €9 offer over the summer has led to crowded trains and stations, as this one in Berlin. [Werner Spremberg/Shutterstock]

German transport ministers agreed on a €49 monthly price tag for local public transport throughout Germany with financing issues unresolved, operators warn that service may be disrupted as a result.

This summer, Germany made headlines by drastically reducing the price of its local public transport to €9 per month as part of a package of measures to ease inflation. While the scheme saw an increase in the use of buses and trains, it also caused overcrowding.

Now, transport ministers of the 16 German states and the federal level have agreed on a successor to the experimental €9 ticket. In the future, a similar ticket will cost €49 per month, TV station ZDF reported.

The ticket will be introduced “as soon as possible”, the agreement said, likely on 1 January 2023.

“This would be the ideal moment to introduce it,” federal transport minister Volker Wissing said at a press conference after the agreement, adding that “we need to clarify what is technically feasible”.

As with the €9 ticket, the new ticket will be valid for all local and regional trains and buses. However, according to German media reports, unlike that special offer, it will only be available as a subscription.

Politicians from Germany’s governing coalition praised the agreement.

“What fabulous news,” Terry Reintke, co-president of the Greens in the European Parliament, tweeted.

“And yes: we need to massively expand public transport. And yes: €49 is not €9. But it’s still a good step forward for affordable, climate-friendly and social mobility,” she continued.

Financing still unresolved

The final decision will be made in the conference of state premiers, which will take place next week.

In the lead-up to the meeting in Bremerhaven, which took place on Wednesday and Thursday (12-13 October), unresolved questions on how public transport will be financed made an agreement seem unlikely. Even after the agreement on the price of the ticket, those questions remain unresolved.

While ticket revenues have mostly financed public transport, regions also receive funds from the federal budget to support their public transport operations.

In parallel to introducing the cheaper ticket, which the federal and regional levels will partly finance, states want additional billions to expand their public transport networks.

“Transport Minister Volker Wissing continues to refuse to make enough money available for good public transport,” Nikolas von Wysiecki, head of transport policy at environmental group NABU, told EURACTIV.

“With a ‘double whammy’ of 200 billion euros, providing only 1.5 billion euros reveals that the transition to a new transport system is not a priority,” he added.

Wissing played down the remaining discrepancies, saying it is “not the decisive point of today”.

“The crucial point is that the technical issues have been clarified,” he told journalists. “Therefore, we can say: Mission accomplished.”

Risk of discontinued services

Public transport operators warned that without committing to the necessary financing to operate buses and trains, the benefit for the public is limited.

“I understand that the nationwide public transport ticket is of particular interest to the public. But for the economically responsible operators, the financing issues are just as pressing,” Oliver Wolff, head of the association of German public transport operators (VDV), said in a statement.

“We run the risk of having to massively discontinue public transport services across the board because they can no longer be financed due to cost increases,” Wolff added.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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