Freezing rain makes roads hazardous

Freezing rain and icy roads caused countless accidents across broad swaths of Germany on Thursday morning. Scores were hurt in bus crash near Augsburg.

Freezing rain makes roads hazardous
Photo: DPA

The German Weather Service (DWD) issued severe weather warnings for almost the entire country after a low-pressure system brought thawing temperatures with rain to parts of the country overnight. The weather led to hazardous driving and walking conditions as the moisture hit the frozen ground.

At least 30 people were injured after a truck smashed into coach travelling from Kosovo on the A8 motorway near Augsburg in Bavaria.

The police said the bus hit a patch of ice that caused it come to a stop sideways across the motorway. The Italian truck was unable to break in time and it crashed directly into the coach. Four seriously injured passengers were taken to a clinic in Augsburg via helicopter.

Dangerously slippery streets across Lower Saxony also effectively shut down the northern state’s schools.

“You can say that there’s no school in Lower Saxony,” said a police spokesman in Hannover.

In the capital Berlin, a thin film of rain had frozen on roads and footpaths to create treacherously slippery, virtually invisible ice sheets. Pedestrians were slowed to crawling pace as they gingerly tip-toed around town.

Flights at the city’s Tegel Airport were also temporarily suspended as de-icer was strewn on the runways.

A police spokeswoman in neighbouring Potsdam said there had been many accidents in western Brandenburg, the state surrounding the capital, on Thursday morning.

Within just one half-hour period, some 30 car accidents had happened with four people reported suffering injuries. In most cases, however, the damage had been to vehicles only, the spokeswoman said.

Motorways in the area were considered highly dangerous. The A24 motorway had six accidents in a short period. Two people were injured when two cars crashed head-on along the B2 road between Potsdam and Groß Glienicke.

The A38 motorway between Allstedt and Eisleben in Saxony-Anhalt had to be shut in both directions. The police in the state also warned that the A14 between Halle and Magdeburg was particularly icy.

The freezing rain also hampered bus traffic in Schleswig-Holstein and caused countless accidents. The authorities there reported that roads had a sheet of ice two centimetres thick in some places.

Though northern Germany was particularly hard hit, parts of Bavaria also reported widespread ice.

“People should stay at home,” said a police spokesman in Lower Franconia. “Nothing’s moving here.”

The DWD expected the situation on Germany’s roads to improve over the course of the day as temperatures rise, however, warned that there could once again be freezing rain on Thursday night.

The DWD also forecast the thaw to continue into the weekend, potentially causing sporadic flooding and even landslides as steady rain melts a month’s worth of snow.

Click here for The Local’s weather forecast.

DAPD/The Local/mry/djw

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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

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.