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.
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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.
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