Will Germany introduce a new transport offer after the €9 ticket?

German welfare and transport groups are calling for a new cheap transport deal to replace the €9 ticket in September.

€9 ticket
A ticket machine in Berlin advertises the €9 ticket. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

Germany’s €9 monthly travel ticket has so far been incredibly popular, with 16 million people snapping up the deal within just a few weeks of the ticket coming on sale.

But social welfare advocates are already looking ahead to September – when the offer is due to end – and are calling on the government to keep affordable transport high on the agenda.

“Politicians must now seize the opportunity and set the long-term course for sustainable and affordable mobility by improving local and regional public transport and making it affordable for everyone,” Adolf Bauer, president of the German Social Welfare Association, told the Funke Mediengruppe.

Pointing to the level of demand for the €9 ticket, Bauer said the deal had shown how great the potential for local public transport use could be.

“It is imperative to use this momentum to develop a permanently discounted offer for public transport tickets,” he said.

One option that states are said to be considering is a €365 annual ticket that would work out at just €1 per day for unlimited local or regional travel. 

This idea has already been adopted in some German cities, but so far it has only been rolled out at a state level for individual groups like seniors or students.

To finance the subsidised travel, Bauer suggested raising taxes on large inheritances, assets and capital gains and “reallocating” the money into public transport and road redevelopment projects. 

READ ALSO: €9 for 90: Everything you need to know about Germany’s cheap travel deal

Munich U-Bahn ticket machine

A passenger on the Munich U-Bahn purchases a €9 ticket. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Felix Hörhager

Left Party joins calls for €365 ticket

The Left Party (Die Linke) has also been upping pressure on the government to find a more long-term cheap transport solution when the €9 ticket ends. 

Left Party parliamentary leader Dietmar Bartsch told the Funke Media Group on Wednesday that ending the ticket without an alternative offer could be “fatal” for public transport use. 

“We should permanently replace the €9 ticket with a €1 ticket,” he suggested. “€1 a day or €365 euros a year – that’s all local transport should cost citizens.”

According to Bartsch, this would be “a sensible instrument against the effects of inflation, for social cohesion and climate protection.”

Kristian Ronneburg, the transport spokesperson for the Left Party in the Berlin House of Representatives, also urged the federal government to step in and provide funding for cheap trains and buses. 

“Increases in ticket prices after the expiry of the €9 ticket would be a disservice to the transport transition in our metropolitan region,” he said. “There needs to be continued public pressure on the federal government not to let things slide now, but to support the ticket permanently and enable attractive fares without neglecting the refurbishment, modernisation and expansion of the rail infrastructure.”

The Vienna example 

In Austria’s capital, Vienna, a €365 annual transport ticket had been a huge success, with less than 30 percent of city residents using a car to get around and almost 40 percent relying on public transport. 

However, some experts point to the fact that Vienna’s public transport network has also been consistently expanded and improved over several years, making it a more attractive proposition than, for example, public transport in Berlin. 

According to Karl-Peter Naumann, honorary chairman of Pro Bahn, the rail network and rail transport should first be expanded and prepared for greater demand before offering low-cost local transport.

Vienna night train

A night train pulls out of Vienna central station. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/APA | Georg Hochmuth

At the same time, driving has to be made significantly more expensive, for example through higher parking fees.

“This is the only way to achieve a mobility transition and a shift from road to rail,” Naumann told the Funke Media Group.

The chairwoman of the conference of transport ministers, Maike Schaefer, also argued that in addition to the best possible nationwide ticket, the federal states needed higher regionalisation funds for better timetables and infrastructure. 

“All this should be put together in a big package for the transport turnaround in order to sustainably save CO2 in the transport sector,” the Bremen Senator for Climate Protection and the Environment told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Germany need to know about the €9 public transport ticket

FDP rule out €9 ticket extension

The €9 ticket is due to run throughout July and August as part of the government’s energy relief package. 

Although there is also a temporary fuel tax cut for drivers, the traffic light coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) is hoping that the transport offer could encourage people to ditch their cars for the summer and take trains and buses instead. 

However, despite the enthusiastic take-up of the ticket, the pro-business FDP has been quick to rule out any extension of the deal beyond autumn, with Finance Minister Christian Lindner citing costs of more than a billion euros per month. 

“Steps towards free public transport are controversial because shortages (e.g. in seating) cannot then be controlled by price,” he said, adding that people could overwhelm the capacities of trains and buses. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s €9 ticket won’t continue in autumn, says minister

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UPDATE: When will Germany’s €49 ticket start?

Germany announced a €49 monthly ticket for local and regional public transport earlier this month, but the hoped-for launch date of January 2023 looks increasingly unlikely.

UPDATE: When will Germany's €49 ticket start?

Following the popularity of the €9 train ticket over the summer, the German federal and state governments finally agreed on a successor offer at the beginning of November.

The travel card – dubbed the “Deutschlandticket” – will cost €49 and enable people to travel on regional trains, trams and buses up and down the country.

There had been hopes that the discount travel offer would start up in January 2023, but that now seems very unlikely.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s €49 ticket

Martin Burkert, Head of the German Rail and Transport Union (EVG) now expects the €49 ticket to be introduced in the spring.

“From our point of view, it seems realistic to introduce the Deutschlandticket on April 1st, because some implementation issues are still unresolved”, Burkert told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland on Monday. The Association of German Transport Companies, on the other hand, said on Wednesday that they believe the beginning of May will be a more realistic start date.

The federal and state transport ministers have set their sights on an April deadline, but this depends on whether funding and technical issues can be sorted out by then. In short, the only thing that seems clear regarding the start date is that it will be launched at some point in 2023. 

Why the delay?

Financing for the ticket continues to cause disagreements between the federal and state governments and, from the point of view of the transport companies, financing issues are also still open.

The federal government has agreed to stump up €1.5 billion for the new ticket, which the states will match out of their own budgets. That brings the total funding for the offer up to €3 billion. 

But according to Bremen’s transport minister Maike Schaefer, the actual cost of the ticket is likely to be closer to €4.7 billion – especially during the initial implementation phase – leaving a €1.7 billion hole in finances.

Transport companies are concerned that it will fall to them to take the financial hit if the government doesn’t provide enough funding. They say this will be impossible for them to shoulder. 

Burkert from EVG is calling on the federal government to provide more than the €1.5 billion originally earmarked for the ticket if necessary.

“Six months after the launch of the Deutschlandticket at the latest, the federal government must evaluate the costs incurred to date with the states and, if necessary, provide additional funding,” he said. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why Germany’s €49 travel ticket is far better than the previous €9 ticket

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bahn has warned that the network is not prepared to cope with extra demand. 

Berthold Huber, the member of the Deutsche Bahn Board of Management responsible for infrastructure, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that a big part of the problem is the network is “structurally outdated” and its “susceptibility to faults is increasing.” 

Accordingly, Huber said that there is currently “no room for additional trains in regional traffic around the major hub stations” and, while adding more seats on trains could be a short terms solution, “here, too, you run up against limits,” Huber said.

So, what now? 

Well, it seems that the federal states are happy to pay half of whatever the ticket actually costs – but so far, the federal government has been slow to make the same offer.

With the two crucial ministries – the Finance Ministry and the Transport Ministry – headed up by politicians from the liberal FDP, environment groups are accusing the party of blocking the ticket by proxy. 

According to Jürgen Resch, the director of German Environment Aid, Finance Minister Christian Lindner and Transport Minister Volker Wissing are deliberately withholding the necessary financial support for the states.

Wissing has also come under fire from the opposition CDU/CSU parties after failing to turn up to a transport committee meeting on Wednesday. 

The conservatives had narrowly failed in a motion to summon the minister to the meeting and demand a report on the progress of the €49 ticket.

“The members of the Bundestag have many unanswered questions and time is pressing,” said CDU transport politician Thomas Bareiß, adding that the ticket had falling victim to a “false start”.