These are the ways Munich should improve its public transport system

Public transport in Munich has a lot going for it but it could be better, say readers who shared their views in the second of our series about getting around locally in Germany. Here's how transport in Munich could improve.

These are the ways Munich should improve its public transport system
Munich's S-Bahn. Photo: DPA

Germany wants to see people ditch their cars more often to cut down on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and improve the environment. But is public transport in the Bundesrepublik any good?

When we reached out to readers to find out what they think about local public transport in Germany and how it can be improved, we were flooded with responses.

This time we focus on Munich – and the state of Bavaria – where readers say there are a lot of good things about public transport.

They praised the cleanliness of trains and the high quality of vehicles used, but readers said the S-Bahn system in particular could be more punctual, and called for better services outside the city.

How do you get around in Munich?

Munich's public transport system is made up of buses, trams, the U-Bahn (metro) and the S-Bahn (Schnellbahn – urban trains). It's run by the umbrella organization Münchner Verkehrs-und Tarifverbund (MVV) which has service offices in the U-Bahn stations at Marienplatz, the Hauptbahnhof and Ostbahnhof.

The U-Bahn and S-Bahn run almost round the clock with a break between around 1.30-2am and 4am. Night buses and trams operate in the city centre.

Each day, around 1.5 million passen­gers, including residents, commuters and visitors, travel by bus and tram, according to Munich Transport Corporation (MVG) which helps to operate the extensive network. 

There are 95 km of underground lines and 79 km of tram tracks. The bus system consists of 69 daily and 12 night lines, which run for a total distance of 467 km to a total of 968 stations and stops.

The U-Bahn in Munich. Photo: DPA

The S-Bahn is operated by S-Bahn München, which aims to provide “fast and convenient connections to the centre of Munich”.

Two of a total of 10 lines shuttle between the city and Munich Airport at short intervals. In total every day more than 720,000 passengers travel by S-Bahn.

The S-Bahn runs on 442 kilometres of track, the largest network of Germany’s S-Bahn systems, and, at an average travel speed of 50 kilometres per hour, is the country's fastest S-Bahn.

Children under the age of six travel for free on the network. Some IsarCards (such as weekly or monthly tickets) allow holders to take children aged between six and 14 free of charge at certain times of the day.

There is continued investment in Munich's public transport system, including new lines, vehicles and infrastructure.

As The Local reported this week, transport bosses plan to test platform screen doors on the U-Bahn in 2023, in a bid to keep passengers away from the train tracks.

If all goes to plan, the security feature will be rolled out in all of Munich's 100 U-Bahn stations as part of plans to upgrade the network by 2028. The project is estimated to cost hundreds of millions of euros.

What's good about public transport in Munich (and beyond)?

With excellent connections in the centre of the city and to tourist attractions, riding on public transport is one of the best ways to get around Munich. Many of our readers agreed.

Lots of people praised the schedule of public transport, as well as the drivers, while others said connectivity was good.

Many readers said vehicles and stations were clean and the quality of the trains and buses was of a high standard.

Shivananda Halladamath, 28, from India, said the buses and U-Bahn trains are “always on time” and that reduces stress when commuting. 

Silviu, 27, a project manager in Munich, said CCTV means he feels safer using the network. He also said the vehicles are in a good condition and some U-Bahn stations look “very nice”.

READ ALSO: How riding Germany's public transport really helps you get under a city's skin

'More frequent buses'

However, respondents to our survey also pointed out the things that aren't so great.

As The Local revealed, the cost of transport in Munich is low compared to other cities in Germany. According to ADAC research, adults pay just €55.20 for a monthly ticket covering the city area. In Hamburg in northern Germany – the most expensive city for public transport – it's almost double the price.

READ ALSO: Germany's most expensive (and cheapest) cities for public transport

But some readers in Munich said they’d like to see the prices reduced even further.

Another respondent called Reshma said buses needed to “be more frequent than every 20 minutes”. The 26-year-old also called for the price reduction of monthly and yearly passes.

Rohit Malge, 23, Munich, said although the schedule was good, the cost of travelling on public transport could be cheaper – especially for students. 

Photo: DPA

“I think the price should be reduced so that many students will travel by public transport,” Malge said. “More students travelling by public transport will help in reducing pollution.

Meanwhile others said the frequency of suburban buses needed to be improved.

Strikes on public transport that bring “life to a stand still” due to the disruption was a complaint by another Munich resident.

When it comes to improvements, one respondent said connections within the city are good but in the outskirts, bus services “start to fade away after 6 or 7 at night”.

“People may live outside the city to save costs but that does not mean they live like a farmer and sleep at 9pm,” said the reader.

'Super expensive and never on time'

Many respondents complained that S-Bahn trains not running on time was a negative part of living in Munich.

Madhuri, 27, praised the U-Bahn but said S-Bahn trains were “always late”, while Sanjeeth, 33, said there should be more transport options “outside the city too”.

Other readers said the frequency of all transport outside of the inner city was disappointing

Halladamath said the S-Bahn service during rush hour is “horrible” and pleaded: “Please improve S-Bahn services in the Munich area.”

Taushif Ahmed, 29, who is from India and based in Munich said reducing the cost of tickets would “attract and inspire more and more people to use public transport”.

“A successful implementation of this policy will not only help MVV to earn more money but also improve the environment by reducing the use of private vehicles.”

Other respondents said the public transport experience could be improved in Munich by making it free on weekends, while one reader said no cars should be allowed in the city centre.

Some readers added that customer service could be better especially when it comes to bus drivers.

A 30-year-old respondent to our survey said public transport in Munich was “super expensive and never on time” and small carriages in trains results in overcrowding during rush hours. 

Meanwhile, other readers suggested railway bosses build new lines so that S-Bahn trains do not share lines with regional trains.

What about other parts of Bavaria?

Outside of Munich but sticking with Bavaria, readers in Nuremberg described public transport in the city as clean and with lots of connections.

But Sazid Rahman, 36, pointed out in some places it can take “double or triple” the amount of time to move from A to B compared to driving a car. 

He suggested there could be more frequent connections to improve on this point.

Rahman also added that there’s no train station in Herzogenaurach – which is the home of the sporting goods companies Adidas and Puma, as well as the large car parts manufacturer Schaeffler Group – and no train connection between Nuremberg/Erlangen and Herzogenaurach.

“It’s strange because Herzogenaurach hosts the headquarters of three global brands and most of the people who work there travel from Nuremberg or Erlangen,” he said.

Manoj Desai, 33, in Poing, just outside Munich, said the public transport there was “good” but there could still be some improvements.

Here's a round up of the points our readers thought would make the Munich and Bavarian public transport experience better:

  • Provide more services and transport options outside the cities, and longer service hours.

  • Better connectivity between the city to suburbs and surrounding areas in general

  • Improve punctuality especially on the S-Bahn and bus routes

  • More frequent S-Bahn trains and buses especially at rush hour

  • Offer more alternative ways of travelling when there are breakdowns on the S-Bahn 

  • Lower the cost of some tickets and provide family benefits (for example more free travel for children)

  • Allow IsarCard users to take a person with them on their ticket at certain times of the day (not just children)

  • Introduce dedicated bus lanes to stop them from becoming stuck in traffic jams with other traffic

Member comments

  1. Might I suggest you try doing a comparison to the UK public transport system and tell me the system here needs improving. The consensus seems to be that people want it cheaper and more services. You don’t have to be an economist to figure out that isn’t going to happen. At the top end of the scale take a look at a one-year travel pass for all the trains in Germany, its about €4500, that sounds like a lot until you consider that the cost of a year ticket from Swindon to London is £8,000 (a 2 hour journey). An Isar card for three zones is €66, an equivalent card (Oyster Card) for London is £158. IN both cases the UK version is for less services and on average trains are late 30-80% of the time. In the UK a train being late doesn’t have to be announced until it is late by at least 20 minutes. So, I suggest you measure the performance/cost ratios to where you come from in the world or examine similar cities to make a more realistic and enlightened opinion.

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EXPLAINED: How Germany is finally set to improve Wifi and phone signal on trains

German rail operator Deutsche Bahn says it will seriously improve the country's notoriously patchy Wifi and phone signal on trains. How will it get up to speed?

EXPLAINED: How Germany is finally set to improve Wifi and phone signal on trains
A passenger connects to the on-board Wifi on a train in Frankfurt. Photo: picture alliance / Andreas Arnold/dpa | Andreas Arnold

What’s going on? 

The chairman of Deutsche Bahn appeared in a press conference with the CEO of Deutsche Telekom on Wednesday to announce a new partnership which they say will “radically improve” Wifi and phone signal throughout the German rail network.

From 2026, the companies want all passengers be able to make calls and surf the internet on all routes without interruption and with vastly improved data rates. 

READ ALSO: ‘We’re running late on this’: Deutsche Bahn promises better Wifi on German trains by 2026

In a press release following the announcement, Telekom CEO Timotheus Höttges said the companies wanted to make Germany “more digital”. 

“Deutsche Telekom and Deutsche Bahn have a shared responsibility for their customers,” he said. “That’s why we are now also tackling the issue of rail coverage together and want to ensure that customers can make phone calls, surf and stream in the best quality.”

So, what’s the plan? 

Bahn and Telekom are basically planning to build out the network coverage of the railways step by step over a period of five years.

The German rail network covers almost 34,000 kilometres, with around 7,800 kilometres of this making up the country’s key rail routes for ICE and IC trains. This is the part of the rail network that the two companies plan to focus on first, with the aim of providing seamless coverage by 2024. 

By 2025, the companies plan to supply another 2,000 daily passengers with consistent Wifi by covering another 13,800 kilometres of busy rail networks.

Then, the following year, travellers on smaller regional routes will also get phone signal on their trains – in some cases for the first time. 

Telekom said it would be putting around 800 new cell sites into operation in the coming years, as well as expanding its capacity at hundreds of other sites in order to improve the mobile network all along the railway lines. 

Sounds expensive. Who’s paying?

It certainly is. The expansion to the network will likely to cost hundreds of millions of euros, with Telekom and Bahn splitting the costs between them.

According to Höttges, Telekom has invested €700 million into railway mobile networks since 2015, and plans to invest a further €300 million over the next five years. 

Meanwhile, the Bahn has set aside €150-200 million to invest in the project.

READ ALSO: Delayed train? Germany’s Deutsche Bahn to give online refunds for first time

It’s unclear if this will include money from government subsidies, though the German Minister for Transport, Andreas Scheuer (CSU), did appear with the two companies at the press conference in Berlin on Wednesday.

Deutsche Bahn is a private, joint-stock enterprise, though the German government is its sole shareholder.

Is the mobile network situation really that bad?

While Germany is in the midst of digitalising its economy, the train network is widely regarded as one of the weakest areas of mobile network coverage. According the a report by the Federal Network Agency, mobile network providers currently only supply around 94.4 to 98.2 percent of the railway routes with service.

While this may not sound particularly bad, the result is often patchy signal, interminable dead zones, and phone calls that continuously cut out – especially on Germany’s smaller regional train routes. 

The Wifi symbol is displayed on the door of a German high-speed train. Photo: picture alliance / Soeren Stache/dpa | Soeren Stache

At present, there are around 550 more antennas needed near railway tracks to provide passengers with decent mobile reception. 

According to Höttges, trains in Austria and Switzerland offer much better Wifi and mobile service than in Germany.

Haven’t we been here before? 

You could say this is something of an ongoing project.

Passengers have been clamouring for better Wifi on German trains for years, and in 2015, the government stipulated that the mobile networks on rail routes had to improve.

At this point, the telecoms companies were given a deadline of 2019, which Höttges made reference to in his speech at the press conference. 

“We’re running late with this, I’m aware of that,” he told reporters. 

In 2019, the government set a target of achieving 100mb-per-second internet across all the busiest train routes in Germany by 2022.

Does this mean we’ll have superfast broadband on trains soon?

Not exactly. From 2024/5, Deutsche Telekom is promising data rates of up 200mb per second along all major rail routes, which is considered an average base speed for urban areas. 

According to tech blogger Ken Lo of Ken’s Tech Tips, with 200mp-per-second download speeds, you can watch eight ultra-HD films on eight different devices, or download an entire album of music in three seconds. 

In other words, it should be more than enough to watch a film or two on a train journey.

For smaller regional train routes, passengers can expect speeds of 100mb per second, which still counts as “fast” broadband, but on the lower end of the scale. 

Does it matter that I don’t have a Telekom mobile contract?

If you enjoy making phone calls on trains, it could be beneficial to get Telekom as your mobile network provider, since the increased reception will primarily benefit people with Telekom contracts.

However, if you just like using the on-train Wifi, your provider won’t make a great deal of difference, since you’ll be connecting to Telekom’s wireless network anyway. 

READ ALSO: Deutsche Bahn to introduce its own ‘Siri’ to better assist customers

It’s also important to mention that the other mobile network providers haven’t been resting entirely on their laurels.

Vodafone and Telefonica have also been involved in talks with Deutsche Bahn about improving the mobile signal along the rail network in line with government targets. 

According to recent news reports, these talks are still ongoing. 

What are people saying about it?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Minister for Transport Andreas Scheuer (CSU), who had pushed for a deal between the two firms, hailed the move as an end to the ‘I have no network’ era.

“Deutsche Bahn and Deutsche Telekom are showing the way by systematically closing the gaps in the mobile network on all rail routes and significantly increasing data rates once again,” he said in a statement. “This is what the future of train travel looks like.”

But not everyone was as excited by the promise of better mobile reception – or the 2026 deadline – as Andreas Scheuer.

Sharing a picture of the Morgenpost on Twitter, software developer Andrew France summed up the news story in a single line.

“Hot of the press is that you’ll be able to make phone calls on trains from 2026,” he wrote.