Deutsche Bahn passengers slam ticket price hike

Deutsche Bahn passengers slam ticket price hike
Photo: DPA
German railway operator Deutsche Bahn said on Friday it plans to raise ticket prices by 3.9 percent by mid-December, sparking outrage among customers and politicians.

Citing rocketing energy prices and climbing personnel costs, Deutsche Bahn said on Friday it was raising ticket prices and charging additional fees for tickets bought over the counter rather than at vending machines or on the Internet.

Karl-Friedrich Rausch, head of Deutsche Bahn’s passenger traffic department, called the price rise “moderate.” The price hike for rail passengers is significantly lower than for car-drivers or air passengers, he said.

Deutsche Bahn Chief Hartmut Mehdorn announced the price hike earlier in August, a move largely intended to assure the company’s profitablity in the course of its long-awaited listing on the Frankfurt stock exchange this autumn. Earlier this month, German news reports said the ticket price increase is expected to raise some €120 million in 2009.

But Friday’s announcement was slammed by groups representing rail passengers, environmental organizations and politicians.

The pro-passenger lobby, Pro Bahn, described the planned price hike as strategically flawed and warned it would deter customers who were willing to give up their cars because of soaring oil prices and switch to rails. The group’s chairman Peter Naumann told news agency dpa that Deutsche Bahn’s decision to charge customers an extra €2.50 if they bought tickets over the counter “discriminated against people.”

Germany’s traffic club, VCD also warned that many customers, particularly older ones, weren’t comfortable using vending machines or the Internet to buy tickets.

Winfried Hermann, spokesman on transportation affairs from the opposition Green party, called the price hike a “brutal rip-off.” Hermann warned Deutsche Bahn was making a mistake by cutting back on personalized service.

“If you want to be a good service-oriented company, you can’t be allowed to punish your customers for wanting personal service,” he said.