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What we know so far about Berlin’s follow-up to the €9 ticket

After weeks of debate, Berlin has settled on a new budget ticket to replace the €9 ticket for a limited time. Here's what know about the travel deal so far.

What we know so far about Berlin's follow-up to the €9 ticket
People exit an S-Bahn train at Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

So Berlin’s getting a new €9 ticket? Cool!

Kind of. Last Thursday, the Berlin Senate agreed to implement a €29 monthly ticket from October 1st until December 31st this year. 

It’s designed to bridge the gap between the end of the €9 ticket deal and the introduction of a new national transport deal that’s due to come into force by January 2023.

The Senate still hasn’t fleshed out the details in a written decision yet, so some aspects of the ticket aren’t clear, but we do know a few things about how it’ll work. For €29 a month, people can get unlimited travel on all modes of public transport in Berlin transport zones A and B. That means buses, trains and trams are all covered – but things like taxis aren’t. 

Wait – just zones A and B. Why’s that?

One of the sticking points in planning the new ticket was the fact that neighbouring state Brandenburg was reluctant to support the idea. Franziska Giffey (SPD), the governing mayor of Berlin, had annoyed her neighbours and surprised her own coalition partners by suddenly pitching the idea at the end of August – shortly before the €9 ticket was due to expire.

At the time, the disgruntled Brandenburg state premier Dietmar Woidke (SPD) complained about the lack of advance notice for a proper debate. He had previously ruled out a successor to the €9 ticket in the state. Meanwhile, the CDU – who are part of the governing coalition in Brandenburg – slammed the idea for a new cheap ticket as a “waste of money” and an attempt to “buy votes” for the SPD.

The blockade meant that plans for a Berlin-Brandenburg ticket run by transport operator VBB had to be scrapped, and the monthly ticket has instead been restricted to the two transport zones solely operated by Berlin’s BVG. Since zone C stretches into Brandenburg, Berlin couldn’t include this zone in the ticket unilaterally. 

Berlin transport zones explained

Source: S-Bahn Berlin

The good news is that zones A and B cover everything within the city’s borders, taking you as far as Spandau in the west and Grunau in the southeast. So unless you plan regular trips out to the Brandenburg, you should be fine.

However, keep in mind that the Berlin-Brandenburg BER airport is in zone C, so you’ll need an ‘add-on’ ticket to travel to and from there. It’s also not great for the many people who live in Potsdam in Brandenburg and commute into Berlin regularly. 

READ ALSO: Berlin gets green light to launch €29 transport ticket

How can people get hold of it? 

Unlike the €9 ticket, you won’t be able to buy it at stations on a monthly basis. Instead, the €29 ticket is only for people who take out a monthly ‘Abo’ (subscription) for zones A and B. If you’ve already got a monthly subscription, the lower price will be deducted automatically, while yearly Abo-holders will likely get a refund. 

You can take out a monthly subscription on the BVG website here – though, at the time of writing, the price of the ticket hadn’t been updated yet. According to Giffey, people will be able to terminate their subscription at the end of December without facing a penalty. 

What types of ‘Abos’ are eligible for the deal? 

According to Berlin transport operator BVG, people with the following subscriptions are set to benefit from the reduced price from October to December: 

  • VBB-Umweltkarten with monthly and annual direct debit
  • 10 o’clock tickets with monthly and yearly direct debit
  • VBB-Firmentickets with monthly and yearly direct debit 
  • Trainee subscriptions with monthly direct debit

People who already have reduced-price subscriptions, such as over-65s and benefits claimants, aren’t set to see any further reductions. That’s because many of these subscriptions already work out at under €29 per month for zones A and B. 

Passengers exit an U-Bahn train in Berlin

Passengers exit an U-Bahn train at Zoologischer Garten. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

Can students with a Semesterticket get it as well?

That’s one of the things that still needs to be clarified. It’s possible that universities will choose to refund part of the Semesterticket price like they did with the €9 ticket. The Local has contacted BVG for more information. 

Can I take my bike/dog/significant other along for the ride? 

Once again, this doesn’t appear to have been ironed out yet – but we can assume that the usual rules of your monthly or yearly subscription will apply. So, as with the €9 ticket, if your bike is included in your subscription, you can continue to take it with you. If not, you’ll probably have to pay for a bike ticket.

In most cases, monthly BVG subscriptions allow you to take one dog with you for free, and also bring one adult and up to three children (under 14) with you on the train on evenings and weekends. These rules are likely to stay the same, but we’ll update you as soon as we know more. 

How much is this all going to cost?

According to regional radio station RBB24, around €105 million is set to be put aside in order to subsidise the temporary ticket. However, this still needs to be formalised in a supplementary budget and given the green light in the Senate. 

An S-Bahn train leaves Grünewald station

An S-Bahn train leaves Grünewald station. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

OK. And what happens after the €29 ticket?

That’s the million – or, rather, billion – euro question right now. In its latest package of inflation relief measures, the federal government said it would be making €1.5 billion available for a follow-up to the €9 ticket.

The ticket is set to be introduced by January 2023 and will rely on Germany’s 16 states matching or exceeding the federal government’s €1.5 billion cash injection. So far, it looks set to be a monthly ticket that can be used on public transport nationally, with the price set somewhere between €49 and €69.

However, the Greens continue to push for a two-tier model that would give passengers the option of buying either a regional or national ticket. Under their proposals, the regional tickets would cost €29 and the national tickets would cost €69.

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TRANSPORT

How employees in Germany could get a discount on the €49 ticket

The progress towards rolling out Germany's €49 travel card has been slow, but there are signs that things could now be taking shape - including a potential discount for people with company tickets and a confirmed start-date in May.

How employees in Germany could get a discount on the €49 ticket

What’s going on?

For quite a few weeks now, all has been quiet on the €49 ticket front, but now a few juicy details are emerging that could be good news for employees in Germany. 

The €49 ticket – or Deutschlandticket – is a monthly travel deal that was intended as a more sustainable replacement to the popular €9 ticket that ran for three months last summer. So far, it looks like it’s going to have pretty much the same conditions: you’ll be able to travel all over Germany with it on regional and local transport. The main difference is that it’ll be pricier, and only available as a digital Abo (subscription). 

Since the funding of the ticket was clarified at the end of last year, federal and state government, along with transport companies, have been in intense discussions to work out some of the finer details. On Friday, it emerged that the one of these details could involve a special discount for employees at certain companies.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s Transport Minister Oliver Krischer (Greens), who chairs the Transport Ministers’ Conference, told DPA that the state and federal governments are currently discussing a separate deal for so-called ‘Jobticket’ holders. This would mean that some workers could get an extra discount on top of the heavily subsidised €49 ticket and travel around Germany at an even cheaper rate. 

READ ALSO: ‘Deutschlandticket’: What you need to know about Germany’s new €49 travel ticket

How would this look in practice? 

This is something that’s available already in Germany. As a special employee perk, some companies organise deals with the transport companies in exchange for purchasing tickets in bulk. They then sell these ‘Jobtickets’ to their employees at a discounted rate. 

According to DPA, the Association of Transport Companies (VDV) wants deals on the €49 ticket to work in a similar way, with employers purchasing a certain number of tickets in order to get a discount.

Munich u-bahn

People wait for an U-Bahn train in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

The hope is that this would result in a much higher number of people purchasing tickets, which would then partially offset the lower price.

“The Jobticket is one of the most sold tickets in public transport, currently we have several million subscribers in this segment,” VDV Chief Executive Oliver Wolff told DPA. “But there is still great potential to attract new passengers or employers to it.”

READ ALSO: When is Germany’s €49 ticket coming – and how long will it last?

Great! Is this definitely going to happen?

Nothing is set in stone at the moment. In the coming weeks, ministers and transport companies are going to be thrashing all these details out and (hopefully) coming to an agreement – so we’ll probably know for certain in February or March.

That said, since the scheme is already available, it seems likely that a similar deal could be rolled out for the €49 ticket. And Krischer – who heads up the conference of state and federal transport ministers – sounds very keen, describing it as a “highly attractive” offer for companies and their employees. 

Could there be other discounts available?

Absolutely. It’s likely that certain other groups such as students, trainees, and people on low-income benefits will also be able to get the Deutschlandticket at a reduced rate – though this hasn’t been decided yet. 

In particular, student unions have been lobbying for their own, cheaper version of the €49 ticket. Currently, most students in Germany pay for a discounted ‘Semesterticket’ as part of their tuition fees that usually costs around €40-50 per month. 

They’re arguing that the introduction of the Deutschlandticket wouldn’t make a great deal of difference for them and say that students have been particularly hard-hit by the rise in the cost of living. 

Berlin's S-Bahn in summer.

Berlin’s S-Bahn in summer. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

However, this could take longer to work out, since these discounts would have to be funded solely by the states. 

Since financing has been a major issue in negotiations over the Deutschlandticket, we expect some pretty intense wrangling between the state and federal government over the next few months. 

READ ALSO: Why students in Germany are still waiting for €200 energy payout

But do we even know when the €49 ticket will be on sale?

This has been pretty up in the air recently, but ministers now sound confident that passengers will be travelling on the €49 ticket from May 1st this year.

“I would have liked the Deutschlandticket to start on April 1st,” said Krischer. “But that won’t work out because the legislative process and the EU approval issue take time.”

On Friday, the state and federal governments said they had agreed on May start-date for the tickets and promised that they would go on sale for customers from April 3rd. 

However, according to the Green politician, there are still a fair few technical details that have to be finalised in the coming days. 

“I perceive a will on the part of all those involved – the federal government, the Länder and the associations – to reach a result,” he added. “We are at kilometre 40 in a marathon.”

(In case you’re wondering, there are 42 kilometres in a marathon.)

READ ALSO: Start date for Germany’s €49 ticket unclear as officials row over details

What other issues do they need to work out?

One key issue is whether the forthcoming ticket will be available in paper form as well as digitally. There have been reports in recent weeks that states are advocating for a paper version to be sold – at least at the beginning – for people without smartphones or the non-digitally literate. 

However, Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) is believed to be pushing for a digital-only ticket.

The likely outcome, according to Krischer, is a transitional paper ticket that would be on sale while the transport companies worked on synchronising their technology. 

A tram collects passengers in the northern German town of Rostock.

A tram collects passengers in the northern German town of Rostock. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Wüstneck

At the moment, he said, there are different systems used for checking digital tickets, which means that a ticket bought in Berlin may not appear valid in Bavaria. That needs to be sorted out.

Another thing putting the breaks on the ticket is that it would need to be approved as a new fare by the supervisory boards of each of Germany’s transport companies. 

“That would mean hundreds of approvals – that is the current law,” said Krischer. “I expect flexibility from the federal government here, that they create the legal mechanism for the Deutschlandticket to be approved once or at least at the state level and that it would then apply everywhere.”

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