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TRAIN TRAVEL

€9 ticket: Germany sees significant rise in rail journeys

Germany's heavily reduced public transport offer is helping to get people travelling by train more often, new research has found.

Travellers beside a regional train in Stralsund on June 3rd.
Travellers beside a regional train in Stralsund on June 3rd. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Sauer

Since the €9 monthly ticket was introduced, the volume of rail travel has increased significantly, according to an analysis by Germany’s Federal Statistical Office (Destatis).

In June when the offer first launched, the number of nationwide rail journeys taken was on average 42 percent higher than in the same month in the pre-pandemic year of 2019. In May, rail travel was only three percent higher than in May 2019. The data includes rail journeys lasting between 30 and 300 kilometres.

Around 21 million people bought the travel deal for June. 

READ ALSO: Less traffic, more ticket sales: How the €9 ticket is impacting Germany

Major uptick in journeys in first week of June

People in Germany took the train particularly frequently in the first week of June. The volume of journeys between 30 and 300 kilometres was 56 percent higher on average at this time compared to the same period in 2019.

Over the course of June, the gap to the pre-crisis level decreased again somewhat. Destatis said this was “possibly due to the congestion of trains on certain routes and the corresponding reporting on this”. 

Transport staff and customers reported overcrowded trains and platforms.

Researchers took the effect of public holidays in the first half of June into account by comparing them with the 2019 period.

Significant increase in shorter rail journeys

Experts said the effect of the €9 ticket on shorter rail journeys was particularly pronounced. 

“When differentiating the movements in rail transport according to distances travelled, it becomes clear that since the introduction of the €9 ticket, an increase in train journeys of less than 300 kilometres in particular was observed,” Destatis said. 

A transport user in Cologne holds the €9 ticket forJune

A transport user in Cologne holds the €9 ticket for June. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Oliver Berg

When the distances are further subdivided, train journeys on short routes (30 to 100 kilometres) were roughly at the pre-pandemic level in the last week of May – but in the first week of June they were 58 percent above it.

For medium distances (100 to 300 kilometres), there was an increase from 18 to 64 percent.

The €9 ticket can be used on many regional trains that cover distances of up to 300 kilometres. For distances of less than 30 kilometres, Destatis said it wasn’t possible to reliably identify the mode of transport on the basis of the anonymous cell phone mobility data they analysed. 

READ ALSO:

Researchers were able to observe a particular rise in train journeys at the weekends. In April and May, the number of train journeys on routes over 30 kilometres was still just below the pre-crisis level on Mondays to Fridays, but from June onwards it was 36 percent higher on average.

At weekends, train journeys on an average Saturday were 18 percent higher in May, then jumped to 83 percent in June. On Sundays, there was an increase of 61 percent in June.

People who get the ticket can use buses, trains and trams nationwide between June and August for just €9 per month. The ticket is valid for all local and regional transport – i.e. all public transport apart from long-distance trains such as those operated by Deutsche Bahn or Flixtrain.

The German government is considering how to keep up the momentum of the €9 ticket after the offer expires at the end of August. The idea of a ‘Klimaticket’ is being considered, along with other proposals. 

READ ALSO: Germany considers ‘Klimaticket’ to replace €9 offer

What about the effect on other transport?

According to Destatis, road transport activity in the year to date has mostly been slightly above the pre-crisis level of 2019. But since the introduction of the €9 ticket, there has been a “moderate decline”.

Trips between 100 and 300 kilometres were 13 percent above pre-crisis levels in the last week of May, but were 6 percent below in the last week of June.

Trips over 300 kilometres by road have been mostly below levels in comparable periods of 2019 so far this year: just under 1 percent lower in the last week of May, and 11 percent lower by the end of June. Shorter trips between 30 and 100 kilometres decreased moderately.

Meanwhile, Destatis said travel on domestic flights in Germany has increased again this year, but was 31 percent lower at the beginning of June 2022 than in the same period before the pandemic.

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

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TRAVEL NEWS

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”. 

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