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EXPLAINED: The German railcard deal you need to know about

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Germany's BahnCard, Deutsche Bahn is slashing the prices of its railcards for a limited time. Here's what you need to know.

An ICE train waits on the platform at Hannover Hauptbahnhof.
An ICE train waits on the platform at Hannover Hauptbahnhof. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Moritz Frankenberg

For the whole of April, German rail operator Deutsche Bahn will be selling anniversary railcards for a hefty discount.

A BahnCard 25 for second-class travel will be reduced from €56.90 to €30, while a first-class Bahncard 25 will be reduced from €115 to €60. 

The railcards are valid for 12 months and entitle holders to a 25 percent discount on train tickets nationwide, including ‘Sparpreis’ and ‘Flexpreis’ tickets.

What’s the German BahnCard?

The BahnCard was first introduced in 1992 and is very popular for those who want to bag cheaper train tickets.

Within 100 days of its introduction, around 700,000 rail passengers had purchased the new card, which allowed them to get heavily discounted rail travel across the Bundesrepublik. This number has since grown into 4.5 million, equating to around five percent of the German population.

However, Deutsche Bahn were keen to point out that the railcard is not just a success with people in Germany.

Apparently, 200 Canadians, 22 Argentinians and 14 New Zealanders abroad own a BahnCard – and there’s even one BahnCard customer on the Christmas Islands.

In Germany, the highest percentage of BahnCard fans live in Merzhausen, a municipality in the Black Forest. Nearly every fourth person in Merzhausen owns a BahnCard.

“The Bahncard has been making rail travel cheaper for 30 years,” said Michael Peterson, chairman of DB Fernverkehr’s management board.

“This means that the second generation of BahnCard holders is already growing up, and we can see that the BahnCard is particularly popular with these young customers. Every third BahnCard holder is 30-years-old or younger.”

Is the deal worth it?

Some simple maths can help travellers work out if the discounted railcard is worth it. 

To break even, a passenger with the second-class BahnCard 25 would have to spent €120 on train tickets over the course of a year. To put this in perspective, that’s about €40 less than the cost of a last-minute return journey from Berlin to Frankfurt.

For first-class travellers, the spend would have to go up €240 over the course of the year, though this won’t be a particularly difficult figure to reach for anyone travelling first class on a German train. 

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

How can I get the offer? 

To take advantage of the discounted offer, head to the Deutsche Bahn website and order your BahnCard 25 by April 30th. 

While you’re on there, take a look at the other offers available – if you’re a young person, for instance, you may find an even cheaper deal on a railcard. 

If you’ve already bought a BahnCard 25 at the more expensive price, you can set the start date of your new BahnCard to the day after the expiry date of your current card.

This will prevent you from having to pay twice in the same period. 

It’s also worth noting that the railcard is primarily for long-distance train travel. If you’re looking for a cheaper local ticket, keep an eye out for the €9 monthly ticket that’s set to be introduced by the German government in the coming months.

READ ALSO: When will Germany introduce the €9 monthly travel ticket?

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‘Trains of the future’: German rail operator plans huge modernisation

Germany's national railway company, Deutsche Bahn, is launching a modernisation offensive and plans to invest more than €19 billion in new trains over the next few years.

'Trains of the future': German rail operator plans huge modernisation

On Wednesday, Deutsche Bahn announced plans for its largest modernisation programme to date.

The record sum of €19 billion will help create the capacity needed to meet increased demand, as well as more modern vehicles which will help make the network more climate-friendly and reliable. 

“We are now investing in the trains of the future,” CEO Richard Lutz told the Innotrans rail technology trade show in Berlin on Wednesday.

At the trade show, Deutsche Bahn also showed what the regional train of the future may look like and presented a new double-decker wagon. It included special office cabins and family areas, which will go into service in Bavaria from spring 2023.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: The best night trains running through Germany

To enable more people to switch from cars to trains, the company says that around extra 450 highspeed ICE trains will run through Germany in 2030 and, next year, three new ICE trains will hit the tracks every month.

Over the next few years, Deutsche Bahn will be buying trains for long-distance services at a cost of around €10 billion – most of which will be spent on the ICE 4, while around €2.5 billion have been earmarked for 73 ICE 3 Neo trains, the first of which will go into service in December.

The end of Covid restrictions and the introduction of the €9 ticket at the beginning of June has recently given a huge boost to passenger numbers on buses and trains in Germany.

READ ALSO: What we know so far about the successor to Germany’s €9 ticket

According to the Federal Statistics Office, almost 4.8 billion passengers used regular train services in the first half of 2022 alone – over 36 percent more than in the first six months of the previous year.