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EXPLAINED: Where public transport costs are going up in Germany

Amid rising fuel and electricity costs and a decline in Covid passenger numbers, many German transport companies are hiking their fares. But others say they want to incentivise train and bus use with steady prices. Here's what you need to know.

S-Bahn logo on a bridge in Munich
The Deutsche Bahn S-Bahn logo is displayed on the Hackerbrücke in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

The past few months have been full of bad news for consumers in Germany: the price of household goods is rising at record levels, fuel and energy costs are soaring, and even the price of one of the country’s most beloved commodities – beer – could be set to rise in the near future

According to a recent analysis by DPA, it seems public transport users are set to be the latest group to fall victim to a new wave of price hikes.

In winter, costs will rise not only for long-distance transport on Deutsche Bahn trains, but also for local transport in many regions. This means that daily journeys could become significantly more expensive: in some areas, the average ticket price will rise by up to 5.5 percent. 

In some regions, however, transport operators are keen to keep things affordable. With the pandemic seeing vast swathes of passengers switch to car, the goal is to encourage people back to public transport with predictable, good value tickets.

Here’s where transport costs are going up – and where they’re remaining steady.

Where are prices going up next year?


According to DPA, the Hamburg transport association is the latest of the transport operators to reveal plans for a price increase in 2022. Residents of the Hanseatic city will be expected to pay an average of 1.3 percent more from the turn of the year.

“Nobody is happy about that,” the association admits. But they say the price rises are justifiable in light of the current rate of inflation in the country. “Everything is getting more expensive,” they told DPA. 

According to the transport association, however, only a part of company’s higher costs will be passed on to the passengers. The vast majority of the expenses will be borne by the taxpayer.

Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg 

According to the Greater Nuremberg Transport Association, which serves large parts of Franconia in Bavaria, outlays for its 135 member companies are getting steeper by the day. Not only must they pay higher prices for fuel and electricity, but they’re also attempting to finance new transport networks and digital offers at a time when revenues from passengers are particularly low. 

For Franconians, that means bus and train travel will become considerably more expensive from next year. In the VGN, fares will rise for the first time in three years, with prices surging by an average of 5.5 percent.

For residents of Nuremburg itself, however, millions of euros of transport subsidies from the treasury have helped ensure that prices remain stable.

The entrance to the Marienplatz Underground Station
The entrance to the Marienplatz Underground Station in Munich. Munich and the surrounding area will see ticket prices go up by 3.7 percent from mid-December. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

Residents of Upper Bavaria won’t be spared the upcoming price hikes, however. In Munich and the surrounding area, prices are set to rise by 3.7 percent from mid-December. “The Covid pandemic brought with it huge income losses for us,” explained the local transport association. 

In Stuttgart and the surrounding area, tickets for public transport will become 2.5 percent more expensive in the new year.

The Rhineland

In the Rhine-Ruhr transport association, which serves the most populous region in Germany, fares will increase at a somewhat slower rate of 1.7 percent next year.

Meanwhile, in the neighbouring Rhine-Sieg and Rhine-Main transport associations, which cover large parts of Hesse, fares will rise by 1.5 per cent. For journeys outside of the transport associations, Deutsche Bahn has announced fare increases of 1.7 percent.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to find cheap train tickets in Germany

Where are transport costs remaining the same? 

In amongst the wave of price rises, many of the northern German states (with the exception of Hamburg, of course) are emerging as havens for public transport users. 

In Bremen, the surrounding area of Lower Saxony, and in Berlin and Brandenburg, there will be no price hikes for the coming year. For Bremen residents, this will be the second year in a row that prices have remained stable. 

These transport operators have all taken a different view on how best to recoup losses in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic. With passenger numbers on regional services still just below pre-pandemic levels, they want to encourage customers back on buses and trains with stable, affordable ticket prices.

READ ALSO: German train travel almost back to ‘pre-pandemic levels’

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Where in Germany do people have the highest disposable income?

An economic study has shown huge regional differences in income throughout Germany. So which parts of the country have the most to spend each month, and which are feeling the squeeze?

Where in Germany do people have the highest disposable income?

A study by the Economic and Social Sciences Institute (WSI) of the Hans-Böckler foundation reveals stark regional differences in disposable income in Germany. In some cases, households had as much as double the spending money of those in other parts of the country. 

Here’s where people have the most – and least – disposable income each month.

What is disposable income?

The WSI calculated disposable income as the sum of income from wealth and employment, minus social contributions, income taxes, property taxes and other direct benefits or taxes.

What’s left is the income which private households can either spend on consumer goods or save.

The study, which was based on the most recent available national accounts data for 2019, looked at the disposable income of all of the 401 counties, districts and cities across Germany.

Which regions have the highest and lowest disposable incomes?

The study found that the regions with the highest disposable incomes were in the southern states.

Heilbronn in Baden-Württemberg had the highest disposable income of all 401 German counties and independent cities – with an average per capita disposable income of €42,275. The district of Starnberg in Bayern followed in second place with €38,509.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: How much do employees really earn across Germany’s states?

By comparison, per capita incomes in the cities of Gelsenkirchen and Duisburg in North Rhine-Westphalia were less than half as high, at €17,015 and €17,741 respectively. These regions had the lowest disposable income in the country. 

The study also found that, more than thirty years since German reunification, the eastern regions continue to lag behind those in the west in terms of wages.

According to the WSI, the Potsdam-Mittelmark district is the only district in the former east where the disposable per capita income of €24,127 exceeds the national average of €23,706.

Do regional price differences balance things out?

The study also showed that regionally different price levels contribute to a certain levelling out of disposable incomes, as regions with high incomes also tend to have higher rents and other living costs.

“People then have more money in their wallets, but they cannot afford more to the same extent,” WSI scientist Toralf Pusch explained.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: When will Germany raise the minimum wage?

Therefore, incomes in the eastern states, adjusted for purchasing power, are generally somewhat higher than the per capita amounts would suggest.

That could explain why, even after price adjustment, the cities of Gelsenkirchen and Duisburg in western Germany continue to be at the very bottom of the list.

Saxon-Anhalt’s Halle an der Saale, on the other hand, which has an average disposable income of only €18,527, benefits from the lower prices in the east.