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Can German ministers agree on funding for a €9 ticket follow-up?

Germany's state and federal transport ministers are thrashing out plans for the successor to the €9 ticket. But concerns about funding public transport amid the energy crisis are still a big sticking point.

Travellers use a regional train in Hanover.
Travellers use a regional train in Hanover. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Moritz Frankenberg

The €9 ticket, which was in place in June, July and August, brought public transport in Germany to the top of the agenda. 

It meant that people were able to ride buses, trams, the U-Bahn – and even regional trains – across German local transport networks at a heavily reduced price.

Due to the success, the federal government has pledged to make €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 cash injection.

READ ALSO: What we know so far about the successor to Germany’s €9 ticket

So far, the proposals are for a monthly ticket that would be valid on public transport nationally, with the price somewhere between €49 and €69.

However, politicians and associations are pointing out that public transport in Germany has been underfunded for some time, and that will get worse due to the energy crisis. 

The biggest problem is that “in view of the massive increase in energy costs, the funds are not sufficient to finance existing local public transport,” said Reinhard Sager, president of the German Association of Districts (DLT).

Prices for construction services, staff and energy costs have risen “dramatically,” he said. “Therefore, under no circumstances should we risk liquidity bottlenecks or even operational closures at transport companies,” said Sagar. He warned that without proper financing there could be “cancellations” across services and said, “more money in the system” is necessary.

The current discussion has been going in the wrong direction for weeks, Sager said. “The experience with the €9 ticket shows that expanding the offer is more important than a very cheap ticket,” he added.

€9 ticket Munich

A woman in Munich purchases a €9 ticket from a ticket machine. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Lennart Preiss

However, there does appear to be strong support for a new ticket – as long as it includes a plan for general funding for public transport.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s transport minister Oliver Krischer (Greens) has called for a quick agreement on the €9 successor model, and an overall strong financing plan for local public transport. “The €9 ticket was a successful model. What is clear is that a new ticket must continue to be cheap and simple,” he told RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND).

“I now perceive a high level of willingness among the states to quickly hold concrete talks on a follow-up arrangement and bring them to a conclusion,” the Green politician stressed. “Nevertheless, we need overall financing that also includes the expansion of public transport.”

Krischer said he feared a reduction in the range of services on offer because of the high costs of the transport associations.

“The best ticket is only worth half as much if the federal states and local authorities have to significantly reduce the range of services on offer because of the enormous cost increases,” he said. “But that’s exactly what could happen if the federal transport minister doesn’t keep his financial commitments.”

The German Association of Towns and Municipalities urged a quick agreement from the federal and state governments.

“The federal government’s proposals are on the table, now it’s the states’ turn,” chief executive Gerd Landsberg told RND. “In the course of the new regulation, the price of the ticket is not the most important thing, but ensuring the efficiency of local transport.”

Landsberg also warned of rising energy costs, which already posed major financial challenges for transport operators.

“However, we must not only absorb these costs, but also ensure that the expansion of local public transport makes progress and that the frequency is improved,” he urged. “Only an attractive public transport offer will inspire people to use public transport, even after the €9 ticket.”

Transport ministers will be debating the ticket via video link on Monday. Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) has held out the prospect of implementing a successor model at the beginning of the year. Meanwhile, the state of Berlin has already moved ahead and announced a €29 city ticket for the months of October, November and December.

READ ALSO: What we know so far about Berlin’s €9 ticket follow-up 

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POLITICS

EU ministers urge unity after Germany’s energy ‘bazooka’

EU finance ministers on Monday pleaded for unity after Germany announced a €200 billion plan to help German households and businesses pay for high energy prices, amid accusations that the EU's biggest economy was acting alone.

EU ministers urge unity after Germany's energy 'bazooka'

Europe is struggling with historically high energy prices as it faces an early autumn cold snap and a coming winter almost certainly to be endured without crucial Russian gas supplies because of the war in Ukraine.

Many EU countries have announced national programmes to shield consumers from the high prices. But Germany went the furthest on Friday when it announced its mammoth plan, which will see help pouring to Germans for two years.

Arriving to talk with his eurozone counterparts, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner insisted the spending was “proportionate” to the size of Germany’s economy and said his goal was to use as little of the money as possible.

READ ALSO: Germany to spend €200 billion to cap soaring energy costs

But Germany’s largesse rankled several EU capitals, some of which feared their industries could take severe blows while Germany’s sits protected, deforming the EU’s single market.

Outgoing Italian prime minister Mario Draghi has slammed Berlin for its lack of solidarity and coordination with EU partners.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, without directly criticizing Berlin, called on partners to agree a common strategy against the price shock and for countries to refrain from going it alone.

“The more this strategy is coordinated, united, the better it is for all of us,” he said.

Risk to ‘European unity’

Others pointed to the unprecedented solidarity shown in the Covid-19 crisis in which the 27 EU nations, against all expectations, approved a jointly financed €750 billion recovery plan.

“Solidarity is not only on the German shoulders, I think this is something that we have to deliver at European level,” said EU economics affairs commissioner Paolo Gentiloni.

“We have very good examples from the previous crisis on how solidarity can react to a crisis and also reassure financial markets. I think that this is our goal,” he said.

While a Covid-style recovery plan is not in the cards for now, Le Maire said €200 billion in loans and €20 billion in aid should be devoted to REPowerEU, a programme to help countries break their dependence on Russian gas.

READ ALSO: Will Germany set a gas price cap – and how would it work?

Bruegel, a highly influential think tank in Brussels, called the German plan a spending “bazooka” that many EU countries were unable to match, creating a potential source of animosity.

“If the German gas price brake gives German business a much better chance to survive the crisis than, say, Italian business, economic divergences in the EU could be deepened, and European unity on Russia undermined,” it said in a blog.

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