Berlin to spend €28 billion on improving public transport

The Berlin Senate has laid out the future of public transport in the city. The centrepiece of the plan is an injection of €28 billion over the next 15 years - although continued fee hikes have been forecast.

Berlin to spend €28 billion on improving public transport
Photo: DPA

Berlin’s public transport system is set to undergo a ‘turnaround’ in the next 15 years, with the state’s ruling coalition promising transport that is “cleaner, more attractive, more comfortable and more reliable”. 

On Tuesday the Berlin Senate discussed the Local Transport Plan 2019 (Nahverkehrsplan 2019-2023), which lays out the short and medium-term future of public transport in and around the city. 

In constructing new lines, purchasing new buses and trains and improving existing infrastructure, the Berlin Senate plans to spend €28 billion up until 2035 – just under €2 billion per year. 

But it’s not all good news for transport users. By 2035 revenues need to be increased by €3 billion, meaning ticket prices are in line for an increase.

SEE ALSO: Why Berlin's public transport payment system might be more modern than London's

As reported in the Tagespeigel, the Berlin Transport Company (BVG) forecasts that revenue needs to be increased by an average of 3.4 percent per year. This amount will be made up by a 1.4 percent increase in ticket prices and a 1.8 percent increase in passenger numbers. 

An aerial view of Berlin's U-Bahn. Photo: NeoMam Studios

The investment is to be widespread and multi-faceted, with existing trams, trains and bus lines to be improved along with the adding of new services. 

The Berlin U-Bahn is set for a substantial increase. In addition to the U5 extension which will be opened in 2020, extensions have been forecast for the U7 (west), the U8 and two extensions to the new Berlin Airport from Rudow (U7) and from the U6 to Tegel Airport. 

Trams have been identified as the focus of the expansion, due to the comparatively lower cost of building and extending tram lines compared to train lines. 

In total, 16 new construction projects have already been planned on the tram lines. 

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The plan also includes a promised phasing out of fossil fuel-using buses in favour of electric-powered buses. 

SEE ALSO: Germany considers free public transit in fight to banish air pollution

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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.