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How tickets for long-distance trains in Germany could become much cheaper

Germany's Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer wants to make long-distance train tickects cheaper by reducing the tax on them.

How tickets for long-distance trains in Germany could become much cheaper
File photo shows an Intercity-Express (ICE) train in Frankfurt. Photo: DPA

By cutting the value added tax, the centre-right Christian Socialist (CSU) politician hopes it will encourage more people to travel by train.

SEE ALSO: How Deutsche Bahn plans to improve its service and staffing in 2019

He told German daily Bild on Wednesday that the number of long-distance train passengers using the state-owned railway operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) was expected to top 150 million this year for the first time.

Scheuer said that to ensure rail travel can remain an attractive option, the tax on tickets should be slashed.

He said: “In order to continue along this path and make Deutsche Bahn even more attractive, we also need to reduce the value-added tax on long-distance rail transport tickets from 19 to 7 percent.”

“This will reduce the burden on long-distance rail passengers by up to €400 million a year.”

The cost of train travel in Germany varies hugely, depending on when customers purchase their ticket and what kind of ticket they buy.

A Sparpreis (saver ticket) is a cheaper ticket with no flexibility, whereas Flexpreis is more expensive, valid for any train on the day of travel and passengers can cancel the ticket for free.

Deutsche Bahn has a Sparpreis finder tool on their website for finding cheaper tickets.

Move is to protect the climate

Scheuer said the idea is to address climate change and encourage greener forms of transport.

“Anyone who is serious about climate protection and switching from cars or planes to rail must start with the tax,” he said.

Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer wants to cut the VAT on long-distance train tickets. Photo: DPA

SEE ALSO: Everything you need to know about travelling by train in Germany

In the past, the Green party in Germany has repeatedly called for a reduction in value-added tax on long-distance train tickets. The lower VAT rate of seven percent already applies to local public transport.

The minister said people in Germany are already choosing to travel by train instead of flying for domestic journeys.

SEE ALSO: Deutsche Bahn raising prices, adding new routes

Passenger numbers have doubled in recent years on the Berlin-Munich ICE line, he said, indicating that more people are choosing to take the train instead of flying.

“Virtually nobody flies between Hamburg and Berlin anymore, because the rail connection is attractive,” Scheuer added.

The minister said cutting VAT on train tickets was the way to move forward in the climate protection fight, rather than introducing prohibitive measures like diesel bans.

“That is the way I want to go – instead of bans, speed limits or increasing the cost of mobility,” Scheuer said. “Prohibiting, raising prices and demonizing is the wrong way.”

Scheuer has been accused by the opposition in the past of not doing enough for climate protection.

But he rejected criticism, calling it “nonsense”. He then went on to reference plans to present  an electromobility law package, which will define benefits for electric vehicles to encourage a shift away from cars that use traditional fuels.

SEE ALSO: 140,000 Deutsche Bahn trains never reached their destination last year

Eco-friendly train travel to continue

Some 148 million passengers used DB long distance trains in 2018. That was a year-on-year increase of 5.7 million or 4 percent – and a new record.

DB said at the end of March that it expects the trend towards eco-friendly rail transport to continue. “We will be transporting over 150 million long distance passengers in 2019 for the first time,” said Dr. Richard Lutz, the CEO of Deutsche Bahn,

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STRIKES

How to navigate the Deutsche Bahn train strikes in your region of Germany

A standoff between the GDL train drivers’ union and Deutsche Bahn means that rail services will be crippled nationwide in Germany for five days. Here’s the information you need to navigate the strikes in your region.

How to navigate the Deutsche Bahn train strikes in your region of Germany
Berlin central station on Thursday morning. Photo: dpa | Paul Zinken

Deutsche Bahn is encouraging travellers to download the DB Navigator app and to use it immediately before they travel in order to see which services are currently running.

There is some information in English but the detailed lists of which lines are still running are in German. We provide links here to those pages and a brief overview of the main lines that have been affected. (tip: if it says Linie eingestellt, trains aren’t running on that line. 20-Minuten Takt means they’re running every 20 minutes).

SEE ALSO: What you need to know about the German rail strikes

Berlin

In the capital, S-Bahn services and regional train services have been severely impacted by the strike but the U-Bahn is not run by Deutsche Bahn so is running normally. That means that trying to get around by bus and U-Bahn (both run by BVG) should help you avoid the strikes.

If you’re happy to do plan ahead, there are still some S-Bahn services running. This website (in German) details which lines have been completely closed and which ones still run a train every 20 minutes.

In terms of the key lines: the Ringbahn is not running at all in either direction. Nor is the north-south S26 line, the S45 to the airport (the S9 to BER is still running), and the S75 from Wartemberg in the north-east into the city.

All other S-Bahn lines are running every 20 minutes with the exception of the S8 which is running every 40 mins. Not all of them are doing the full route though.

You can plug your journey into this English page run by Deutsche Bahn and it will show you how to best avoid the strike action.

In terms of regional trains to and from satellite towns, there is a detailed list of which lines have been completely halted for the strike and which have a form of replacement service.

The following lines are not running at all: FEX, RB10, – RB11, RB13, RB20, RB21, RB22, RB23, RB31, RB49, RB55, RE/RB66

Other lines connecting Magdeburg, Dessau, Eberswalde, Stralsund, Rostock and Cottbus with the capital are running reduced services.

Frankfurt

The German finance capital is also seriously affected by strikes on both its S-Bahn and regional services.

A full list of the lines that are not running reduced services can be found in German here.

Be careful to check for updates, as the page is updated every day at 11 am for the following day. 

Here are the current services for Thursday and Friday: The S2, S4, S7 and S9 are not running at all. Other lines are running on basic services but often only every hour.

NRW

A large number of regional and S-Bahn services in the west of the country have been completely stopped. These include the RE8 over Mönchengladbach, Cologne and Bonn, the RE9 between Aachen, Cologne and Siegen, and the RB33 between Essen and Aachen.

The S4 through Dortmund, the S8 through Düsseldorf and the S68 to Wuppertal have also been completely stopped. See here for further details.

Updates will be posted daily at 10:30am on the www.bahn.de website.

Bavaria

In Munich, a replacement S-Bahn timetable has been put in place for the duration of the strikes, with long delays expected on most lines.

The S1, which normally runs between the city and the airport, will be running every 20-40 minutes, but won’t go as far as the airport. The S2, S3, S4 and S6 will equally be running a partial service every 20-40 minutes and won’t stop at all stations. 

The S7 will only be running on an hourly basis, while the S8 will be running every 20 minutes between Pasing and the airport, and will also be running every 40-60 minutes to stations further along the line.

The S20 will not be running at all during the strike.

DB has not yet published a detailed list available of which regional trains have been affected in Bavaria, but cross-border services into Austria, Italy and Hungary and likely to be heavily impacted.

However DB say that they will update the travel planner website for Bavaria every day at 12:00 for the following day. You can plug your departure point and destination into that site here or check for general travel updates on here.

Other areas of the country

Various other parts of the are facing impediments to travel due to the strike. The east of the country is particularly affected. For an exhaustive list of all of the regions of the country where lines are not running according to schedule you can peruse this web page (in German).

READ ALSO: Germany’s train strikes: What rights do you have as a passenger?

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