Berlin’s S-bahn chaos opens new canvas to grafffiti artists

Berlin’s S-Bahn chaos has created a Cockaigne for graffiti artists as the lack of rail traffic opens up a whole new canvas for taggers, daily Der Tagesspiegel reported on Wednesday.

Berlin's S-bahn chaos opens new canvas to grafffiti artists
Photo: DPA

In the month since the city’s rapid transit system has been running at reduced capacity, police have issued 400 graffiti-related citations, the paper reported. While an increase in graffiti artists are usually expected during school holidays, the deserted train tracks of the S-Bahn have exacerbated the problem for police and rail officials.

In response to the colourful problem, S-Bahn operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) and police have increased security around the empty platforms and tracks throughout the city. Lines servicing more suburban parts of the city are supervised with helicopters at night while track beds are watched by thermal-imaging cameras.

But with all the extra attention at night, artists are finding the light of day the best time to leave their mark, the paper said. On Wednesday, two children in the community of Zehlendorf were caught by police with spray paint in hand at 6:20 pm, having already used two entire train cars as their canvas.

Another man was also caught at the Westkreuz station tagging a train at 5 pm on Thursday, the paper said.

Officials are also warning of the dangers that come with exploring the rails. Many lines are still electrified and create a shock risk.

Police expect a flood of new tags next week when a Friedrichshain-district hip-hop festival will attract more artists with a graffiti contest. Every year, 15,000 new graffiti paintings appear on Berlin’s surfaces, making it a destination for street artists worldwide.

The capital city’s rapid transit system has been out of service in Berlin’s main east to west access since July 20. DB, the national rail service provider, was ordered to conduct wheel repairs on 930 of the train cars by the national rail watchdog (EBA).

Most of the routes are to come back in service at reduced capacity by Monday, August 3, with most train lines running every 20 minutes. DB brought train cars in from Stuttgart and Munich to service some of the suburban lines, but because passengers were unaware of the trains running there, most remained empty.

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How the Greens want to replace Germany’s €9 ticket deal

New proposals drafted by the Green Party have set out plans for two new cheap travel tickets in Germany as well as a shake-up of the country's travel zones. Here's what you need to know.

How the Greens want to replace Germany's €9 ticket deal

What’s going on?

Germany’s €9 travel deal has been hugely popular this summer, with an estimated 30 million or so passengers taking advantage of the offer in June alone. Now the last month of the three-month offer is underway, there are hopes that the ticket could be replaced by another deal that offers simple, affordable travel on a regional or national basis.

There have been a few ideas for this floating around, including a €365 annual ticket and a €69 monthly ticket pitched by German transport operators. Now the Green Party has weighed in with a concept paper setting out plans for two separate travel tickets to replace the €9 ticket. The paper was obtained by ARD Hauptstadtstudio on Friday. 

Why do they want two different tickets?

The first ticket would be a regional one costing just €29 a month and the second would be a €49 that, much like the €9 ticket, would be valid for the whole of Germany.

This would allow people who mainly stay in their local region to opt for the most cost-effective option while long-distance commuters or those who want to travel further afield could opt for the nationwide offer.

Presumably the ticket would once again be valid for local and regional transport only rather than long-distance trains like the ICE. 

To simplify the system even more, the Greens also want to introduce new travel zones for the regional monthly tickets.

READ ALSO: Has Germany’s €9 rail ticket been a success?

How would the travel zones change?

According to the paper, Germany would be divided into eight regional zones that would include the Berlin-Brandenburg area, the eastern German states of Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt and the northern states of Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania. 

The zones take passengers “statewide at a minimum”, the paper says, for example in the larger states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and North-Rhine Westphalia.

However, as the map below shows, states will also be clustered together to make larger regions.

One of the major draws of the €9 ticket has been the flat-rate system that allows passengers to travel anywhere in the country using the same ticket. This appears to be what the Greens are trying to replicate with their proposals. 

READ ALSO: What happens to Germany’s €9 ticket at the end of August?

How would this be financed? 

As you might expect, the Green Party is placing less eco-friendly forms of transport in the crosshairs as it looks for cash to fund the cheap tickets.

The first way to free up cash would be to end tax breaks for people with company cars. In addition, taxes on CO2 emissions would be increased. 

This would result in “additional revenues for the federal government and the states, which could flow seamlessly into the financing of cheap tickets”, the paper states. 

However, the Greens don’t set out how much money they think this would bring in or how much the discounted tickets would cost the state in total. 

Is this definitely going to happen?

At the moment, it seems that the Greens are the main voices in the coalition government pushing for a longer term travel deal – and they continue to face opposition from the pro-business FDP.

Unfortunately for the Green Party, the FDP happen to be heading up two crucial ministries that could both play a role in blocking a future offer: the Finance Ministry and the Transport Ministry. 

However, with four out of five people saying they want to see a successor to the €9 ticket in autumn, Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) is currently under pressure to come up with a replacement as soon as possible. 

A passenger sits on the platform a Berlin Hauptbahnhof

A passenger sits on the platform a Berlin Hauptbahnhof waiting for a train. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Joerg Carstensen

At a press conference a few weeks ago, he promised to discuss this with the state transport ministers after analysing how successful the ticket had been.

In particular, researchers will want to look at how many people ended up leaving the car at home and taking the bus or train instead.

Though the data on this is inconclusive at the moment, some studies have shown reduced congestion on the roads while the ticket was running.

In a survey of The Local’s readers conducted last month, 80 percent of respondents said they had used public transport more with the €9 ticket and 85 percent said they wanted to see a similar deal continue in the autumn.

Of the options on the table so far, a monthly €29 ticket was by far the most popular choice.

READ ALSO: ‘Affordable and simple’: What foreigners in Germany want to see after the €9 ticket