‘A great thing’: German residents welcome cheap public transport deal

Germany's €9 ticket offer officially started on June 1st. The Local's Sarah Magill spoke to commuters in Berlin to find out what they thought about it.

Berliners wait for a train at the Zoo station on June 1st.
Berliners wait for a train at the Zoo station on June 1st. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Monika Skolimowska

The ticket, which is valid from June 1st until the end of August, costs €9 per month or €27 for the whole period. 

It is aimed at providing financial relief to people in Germany dealing with rising energy costs, as well as encouraging car-users to try out public transport.

At Berlin’s Ostkreuz station on Wednesday morning, there was no palpable sense of excitement or chaos at the station, and there was no long queue to be seen at the ticket counter. It seemed like any other day.

Speaking to some of the commuters who had a minute or two to spare before boarding their trains, most seemed generally positive about the ticket – and they are eager to see how the three-month offer will pan out. Most of them, however, also had some questions about how transport services will cope, and whether it is really the best solution for tackling the rising cost of living. 

READ ALSO: ‘Extraordinary experiment’ Millions of people snap up Germany’s €9 ticket

Denise, 39 from Berlin, has an Abo (subscription) ticket but is paying now just €9 instead of over €80 per month. She said: “I find it a nice thing, of course, but would be happy if the prices for train travel were just generally cheaper.

“I travel all the time with the train anyway, so it’s not the offer that attracted me. I’m also curious to see how the train services will cope with demand.”

Lei Yan at Berlin’s Ostkreuz station.

Lei Yan, 40 originally from China, lives in Berlin – and already has the ticket. He said: “I think it’s a good thing, especially for encouraging people to travel green.”

Jutta, 43, from Stuttgart, is visiting Berlin for 3 days with her family and was using the ticket to explore the city. “It’s definitely a great thing,” she said.

Poluru, 31 from India, who lives in Berlin and also has the new travel card, welcomed the offer but questioned how it would help public transport in future. 

“I think it’s helpful as it will save a lot of money,” he said. “But it would have been better to introduce this solution a while ago, in the middle of the pandemic, when people were really struggling. It’s definitely not a long term solution.”

READ ALSO: €9 for 90: Everything you need to know about Germany’s cheap travel deal

Burak, 31 originally from Turkey and living in Berlin also snapped up the offer. He said: “It’s a good thing for now and for the summer. But I haven’t really given it a lot of thought.”

Public transport subscription customers also benefit from the heavily reduced price ticket, and should receive refunds from local transport providers.

But Johanna, 28, a student from Berlin, said she is still wondering how that process will work. 

“I have a semester ticket but I will apparently get the money back at some point – though it’s not quite clear how yet,” she said.

“I think the €9 ticket is a good thing, especially for young people who want to enjoy the summer. But I don’t think it’s really going to relieve those people who are really suffering financially at the moment.”

Bahar Erdogan Tozar at Berlin’s Ostkreuz Station.

Not everyone has had the chance to get the ticket yet, though. And some users say there is confusion around the terms and conditions. 

The ticket can be used on all local transport throughout the country, as well as regional trains. However, it’s not valid for long distance transport. 

Bahar Erdogan Tozar, 35, from Berlin, said: “I don’t have the ticket yet, unfortunately, as I still have a monthly travel card, which is valid until the 8th of June. When it expires I would like to get the €9 ticket. But I think there a lot of things that are not that clear about the offer.

“I know some of my friends, for example, were making plans to use the ticket to travel with the ICE or IC trains – but it’s not valid on those trains, and I think a lot of people will make that mistake.

“And, even if they don’t, lots of people using regional trains to travel long distances will mean a lot of switching, which will probably lead to quite a chaotic situation.”

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UPDATE: When will Germany’s €49 ticket start?

Germany announced a €49 monthly ticket for local and regional public transport earlier this month, but the hoped-for launch date of January 2023 looks increasingly unlikely.

UPDATE: When will Germany's €49 ticket start?

Following the popularity of the €9 train ticket over the summer, the German federal and state governments finally agreed on a successor offer at the beginning of November.

The travel card – dubbed the “Deutschlandticket” – will cost €49 and enable people to travel on regional trains, trams and buses up and down the country.

There had been hopes that the discount travel offer would start up in January 2023, but that now seems very unlikely.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s €49 ticket

Martin Burkert, Head of the German Rail and Transport Union (EVG) now expects the €49 ticket to be introduced in the spring.

“From our point of view, it seems realistic to introduce the Deutschlandticket on April 1st, because some implementation issues are still unresolved”, Burkert told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland on Monday. The Association of German Transport Companies, on the other hand, said on Wednesday that they believe the beginning of May will be a more realistic start date.

The federal and state transport ministers have set their sights on an April deadline, but this depends on whether funding and technical issues can be sorted out by then. In short, the only thing that seems clear regarding the start date is that it will be launched at some point in 2023. 

Why the delay?

Financing for the ticket continues to cause disagreements between the federal and state governments and, from the point of view of the transport companies, financing issues are also still open.

The federal government has agreed to stump up €1.5 billion for the new ticket, which the states will match out of their own budgets. That brings the total funding for the offer up to €3 billion. 

But according to Bremen’s transport minister Maike Schaefer, the actual cost of the ticket is likely to be closer to €4.7 billion – especially during the initial implementation phase – leaving a €1.7 billion hole in finances.

Transport companies are concerned that it will fall to them to take the financial hit if the government doesn’t provide enough funding. They say this will be impossible for them to shoulder. 

Burkert from EVG is calling on the federal government to provide more than the €1.5 billion originally earmarked for the ticket if necessary.

“Six months after the launch of the Deutschlandticket at the latest, the federal government must evaluate the costs incurred to date with the states and, if necessary, provide additional funding,” he said. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why Germany’s €49 travel ticket is far better than the previous €9 ticket

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bahn has warned that the network is not prepared to cope with extra demand. 

Berthold Huber, the member of the Deutsche Bahn Board of Management responsible for infrastructure, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that a big part of the problem is the network is “structurally outdated” and its “susceptibility to faults is increasing.” 

Accordingly, Huber said that there is currently “no room for additional trains in regional traffic around the major hub stations” and, while adding more seats on trains could be a short terms solution, “here, too, you run up against limits,” Huber said.

So, what now? 

Well, it seems that the federal states are happy to pay half of whatever the ticket actually costs – but so far, the federal government has been slow to make the same offer.

With the two crucial ministries – the Finance Ministry and the Transport Ministry – headed up by politicians from the liberal FDP, environment groups are accusing the party of blocking the ticket by proxy. 

According to Jürgen Resch, the director of German Environment Aid, Finance Minister Christian Lindner and Transport Minister Volker Wissing are deliberately withholding the necessary financial support for the states.

Wissing has also come under fire from the opposition CDU/CSU parties after failing to turn up to a transport committee meeting on Wednesday. 

The conservatives had narrowly failed in a motion to summon the minister to the meeting and demand a report on the progress of the €49 ticket.

“The members of the Bundestag have many unanswered questions and time is pressing,” said CDU transport politician Thomas Bareiß, adding that the ticket had falling victim to a “false start”.