Berlin makes public transport free for all schoolchildren

Starting on Thursday, all school students in Berlin can ride the capital’s public transport for free - whether the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, tram or bus.

Berlin makes public transport free for all schoolchildren
Berlin's S-Bahn. Photo: DPA

The new Schülerticket, issued by the transport association of Berlin and Brandenburg (VBB), is applicable to all ticket holders travelling in Berlin’s AB zone covering the majority of the city. 

Children over six will also be able to ride Berlin public transport for free, even if they don’t attend a school in Berlin, as long as they bring along a school ID. 

Addition Azubi discount

All Auszubildende (trainees), or Azubis as they are commonly called in German, are able to take all Berlin and Brandenburg transit for a very subsidized cost of €365 per year (which is equal to €1 per day) starting on August 1st.

The aim is to “relieve families and young people from both states of mobility costs while helping the environment,” wrote the VBB in a press release. 

Around 360,000 pupils will benefit from the new ticket, which was decided on last year by Berlin’s Social Democratic (SPD), Left and Greens governing coalition, according to the Berliner Morgenpost.

The ticket even allows for taking along a bike, dog or addition child up to six years old without charge, tweeted Berlin's SPD on Wednesday.

How to obtain a ticket

According to the BVG, the new ticket can only be ordered online through a special page on the BVG website. 

For pupils who already have a special subsidized pass through a Schülerabo, there is no need to cancel – this will already occur when the new subscription begins.

School students with an older pass, the so-called Schülerausweis I, will also be able to ride Berlin public transport for free during a “transition time” lasting until the end of November. 

“A milestone has been reached with the new Schülerticket in bringing young people closer to public transport. It means freedom from Elterntaxis (parent taxis). Families benefit from saved costs, the climate from avoided emissions,” said Berlin's traffic senator Regine Günther of the Greens. 

SEE ALSO: Everything that changes in Germany in August 2019

Free transportation nationwide?

Several cities around Germany have already introduced plans to make public transportation free or significantly cheaper  in order to ease traffic congestion and better protect the environment.

The small west German city of Monheim will offer a free bus service to all starting in April 2020. 

The move comes after the German government last year said it was considering free public transport “to reduce the number of private cars”.

Since then, five German cities – Bonn, Essen, Herrenberg, Mannheim and Reutlingen – have been earmarked to offer significantly cheaper transport tickets, with the government poised to subsidize the projects with €128 million to help cover the income shortfall.

Other cities, such as Tübingen in Baden-Württemberg, are already offer initiatives such as free bus travel on certain days of the week in a bid to get people to leave their cars at home.

Berlin’s mayor has also proposed making the annual transport ticket just €365 – and in doing so following the example of Vienna – in order to boost ridership and ease the capital’s growing problem of car congestion.

SEE ALSO: Berlin considers annual transport ticket of €1 per day

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Bavaria plans 100 million rapid Covid tests to allow all pupils to return to school

In the southern state of Bavaria, schools have been promised 100 million self-tests starting next week so that more children can start being taught in person again. But teachers say the test strategy isn't being implemented properly.

Bavaria plans 100 million rapid Covid tests to allow all pupils to return to school
Children in the classroom in Bavaria. Photo:Matthias Balk/DPA

State leaders Markus Söder said on Friday that the first 11 million of the DIY tests had already arrived and would now be distributed through the state.

“It’s no good in the long run if the testing for the school is outside the school,” Söder told broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR) during a visit to a school in Nuremberg.

“Contrary to what has been planned in Berlin, we’ve pre-ordered in Bavaria: for this year we have 100 million tests.”

Bavaria, Germany’s largest state in terms of size, plans to bring all children back into schools starting on Monday.

SEE ALSO: ‘The right thing to do’ – How Germany is reopening its schools

However, high coronavirus case rates mean that these plans have had to be shelved in several regions.

In Nuremberg, the state’s second largest city, primary school children have been sent back into distance learning after just a week back in the classroom.

The city announced on Friday that schools would have to close again after the 7-day incidence rose above 100 per 100,000 inhabitants.

The nearby city of Fürth closed its schools after just two days of classroom time on Wednesday, after the 7-day incidence rose to 135.

The Bavarian test strategy plans for school children to receive one test per week, while teachers have the possibility of taking two tests a week. The testing is not compulsory.

But teachers’ unions in the southern state have warned that the test capacity only exists on paper and have expressed concern that their members will become infected in the workplace.

“Our teachers are afraid of infection,” Almut Wahl, headmistress of a secondary school in Munich, told BR24.

“Officially they are allowed to be tested twice a week, we have already received a letter about this. But the tests are not there.”

BR24 reports that, contrary to promises made by the state government, teachers in many schools have still not been vaccinated, ventilation systems have not been installed in classrooms, and the test infrastructure has not been put in place.