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

Germany has officially welcomed the follow-up to this summer’s €9 travel ticket: a nationwide €49 monthly ticket set to come into effect early next year. Here's what you need to know.

'Deutschlandticket': What you need to know about Germany's new €49 travel ticket
A regional train in Groß Brütz, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jens Büttner

The new ticket was agreed upon Wednesday between Germany’s federal and state governments.

The newly dubbed “Deutschlandticket” is slated to come into circulation at the beginning of January, said Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) at the discussion round.

“Now the way is clear for the biggest public transport fare reform in Germany,” he said.

However, some of the ministers, such as Baden-Württemberg state premier Winfried Kretschmann of the Greens, remained sceptical that the ticket would really be issued by the slated date, stating that the spring of 2023 was more likely for a roll-out.

READ ALSO: Germany to set out plans for 49 travel ticket in October

How does it work?

The digital Deutschlandticket, which is to be valid all throughout Germany, will be available for an introductory price of €49 per month through a subscription that can be cancelled monthly, as opposed to yearly like other existing transport subscriptions.

While it’s not yet possible to purchase the ticket, sales will likely begin two weeks before the ticket is introduced. 

As with its €9 predecessor, it can be used for all local transport (U-Bahn, S-Bahn, and trams) as well as Deutsche Bahn regional trains.

The aim of the ticket, according to the state and federal ministers, is to boost the attractiveness of public transport while also massively cutting down on carbon emissions. 

But for people in Germany, its biggest goal is to relieve the financial burden of public transport, with many local tickets alone costing between €80 and €100 per month. 

The Deutschlandticket itself is expected to cost the government a total of €3 million, with half to be taken up at the federal level and half at the state level.

The new ticket ties in with a larger plan to bolster public transport. The government has also vowed to set aside a further billion per year for the regional expansion of local transport. From 2023 onward, this is to be increased by three percent a year.

Passengers exit an U-Bahn train in Berlin

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

Could the ticket become more expensive (or cheaper)?

Germany’s transport ministers are planning a two-year introductory phase for the Deutschlandticket. Starting the second year, however, the ticket could become more expensive in order to compensate for inflation.

The ministers also said they hoped the ticket itself would help keep inflation in check – but economists were more sceptical.

Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank, said that the inflation rate – currently a staggering 10 percent — will be depressed “only to a small extent,” “perhaps by 0.1 percentage points.”

Some were also critical that the new ticket was too expensive, pointing out that not all people in Germany could afford to fork out over €49 a month.

 “That’s why we continue to call for a €365 ticket. One euro per day for mobility, that would really be socially acceptable,” said Germany’s Sozialverband after the meeting.

Picking up speed

The managing director of the Pro-Rail Alliance, Dirk Flege, said the new ticket showed that the €9 ticket in the summer was not a one-time phenomenon. 

“Rather, the federal and state governments are now jointly taking into account the will of the people, who have impressively demonstrated that they want to take more buses and trains if the framework conditions are right,” he said.

In June, July and August, the €9 ticket allowed passengers to travel on buses and trains for one month each. A full 50 million were sold, covering one billion trips per month. 

A total of 1.8 million tonnes of CO2 were also saved during the three month period, according to German transport companies association (VDV). 

As a successor, the state of Berlin has already introduced a €29 ticket, as well as a €9 ‘social ticket’, which is also set to go into effect next year.

READ ALSO: How will Berlin’s new 29 travel ticket work?

Jens Hilgenberg, head of transport policy at BUND, said that public transport is the backbone of the ‘mobility turnaround’ and therefore needs further, additional sources of funding. Among other things, revenue from a toll for trucks would have to be used to support its expansion. 

According to a survey conducted by the opinion research institute Civey for Spiegel, most Germans are looking forward to the ticket: 55 percent of people rated the new ticket ‘very or somewhat’ positive, with only 23 percent giving it a negative assessment. Only 23 percent view the ticket negatively.

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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”.