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WEATHER

‘Miriam’ wreaks winter havoc

The winter storm “Miriam” created chaotic traffic conditions across Germany on Wednesday, as the military used helicopters to bring food and supplies to the Baltic Sea island of Hiddensee.

‘Miriam’ wreaks winter havoc
Photo: DPA

Many roads in Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and the northern part of the country were closed, as cleaning crews worked against treacherous driving conditions caused by snow and ice. Schools were also shut in Schleswig-Holstein and parts of Lower Saxony.

A military helicopter carrying a tonne of food made its way Wednesday morning to the island of Hiddensee, which has been cut off from the mainland due to ice in the Baltic Sea for several days. A second chopper was expected to carry 60 holidaymakers off the island later in the day. With the island’s icebreaker out of service, the regional authorities are preparing an extended airlift.

The Bureau for Waterways and Shipping (WSA) revealed that it would make no further attempt to clear a path to Hiddensee, because the ice has become so thick that other icebreakers would run the risk of getting stuck in the water.

In Bavaria, heavy snow has also caused many roofs to cave in under the weight. Areas most affected included the Oberpfalz and Lower Bavaria, though no one has been injured. In Memmingen in the Allgäu region, three gym halls were closed as a precautionary measure.

In Attendorn in Saarland, a man was seriously injured in his car, when the roof of a commercial building collapsed nearby on Tuesday evening. Around a total of 100 halls were closed in around Wuppertal.

Snow and black ice presented drivers with massive problems in parts of North Rhine-Westphalia. Between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning there were 751 accidents, which left six people seriously injured and 39 slightly. According to the police, man side roads in particular are still being cleared.

In the Sauerland, the traffic was obstructed by numerous trucks fitted only with summer tyres. As a result, a traffic jam stretched up to 25 kilometres on the A45 motorway. Aid workers distributed blankets and hot drinks to drivers.

Snow, rain and storm also led to considerable disturbances in parts of Saxony-Anhalt. Roads were impassable in the region around Hettstadt, forcing 142 people stuck in their vehicles to be temporarily put up for the night. But a spokesman for the police claimed that the situation had since returned to normal.

In Dannenberg in Lower Saxony a 36-year-old motorist was killed in an accident after the man’s vehicle crashed into a truck on the icy stretch of road.

Meteorologists expect the snow and freezing rain to continue in the southern half of the country heading into Thursday. While the east will remain frosty, the southwest could finally begin to thaw out a little in the coming days.

Click here for The Local’s weather forecast.

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TRAVEL NEWS

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

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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