German transport operators float plans for €69 ‘Klimaticket’

As Germany searches for a successor to its €9 monthly ticket, transport operators are pitching a new €69 deal that they say would appeal to car drivers.

Stralsund Germany
Transport users wait for a train in Stralsund. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Sauer

The Association of German Transport Companies (VDV) called on the government to introduce a permanent €69 ticket as a replacement for the €9 ticket after the summer. 

Much like the €9 ticket, the €69 ticket would be usable across Germany on local and regional transport. It would be branded the ‘climate ticket’ (or Klimaticket) and function in a similar way to Austria’s heavily subsidised public transport offer of the same name. 

READ ALSO: Tell us: What should happen after Germany’s €9 ticket ends?

“Based on the premise that the public transport fares of the transport associations will continue to be attractive for the majority of passengers, we propose a nationwide public transport climate ticket for €69 per month as a single 2nd class travel entitlement, especially for those who have proven to be a relevant target group in market research – car drivers who are willing to pay,” announced VDV Executive Director Oliver Wolff. 

€2 billion per year

Unlike the €9 ticket, the €69 ticket would not automatically replace the ordinary Abo for subscription and season-ticket holders. 

Instead, transport users would have to opt for the deal they thought was best. 

“The industry is in a position to offer such a climate ticket from September 1st,” Wolff said. “However, we would need the corresponding mandate from the politicians very quickly.”

Transport companies estimated that the new scheme would cost around €2 billion per year and could be financed in 2022 by the remainder of the funds from the government’s Covid rescue package.

As part of its relief package to tackle rising energy costs, the government launched the €9 ticket for three months from June to August, enabling customers to use local and regional public transport anywhere in the country for less than €10 per month. 

According to the VDV, 31 million people took advantage of the low fare in June, including ten million season ticket holders who automatically receive the discounted ticket.

There is also evidence that traffic and congestion has been reduced on Germany’s roads. 

READ ALSO: Less traffic, more ticket sales: How the €9 offer has impacted Germany

‘It must be worthwhile’

Politicians have been debating a potential successor to the €9 ticket in recent weeks, with Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) speaking out in favour of a simplified tariff system that allows people to travel anywhere in Germany.

“If the complicated tariff zones disappear and tickets are valid nationwide, public transport will be used much more,” he said.

Green Party leader Ricarda Lang has also signaled support for a “fair” transport offer to replace the outgoing summer deal. 

“We will discuss the model in the coalition, but one thing is clear: there needs to be a follow-up ticket that applies as uniformly as possible, as proposed by the Federal Minister of Transport, and that is cheap,” she told FAZ on Friday.

Passengers use the ticket machines at Berlin Gesundbrunnen stationPassengers use the ticket machines at Berlin Gesundbrunnen stationPassengers use the ticket machines at Berlin Gesundbrunnen station

Passengers use the ticket machines at Berlin Gesundbrunnen station. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Joerg Carstensen

However, she said, the government is faced with the task of having to achieve two goals at the same time.

“We want a cheap ticket and at the same time want to improve the quality of the offer, which means investing in the infrastructure.”

The Greens had previously put forward the idea of a €29 ticket that they argued would offer similar benefits to the €9 ticket but also provide sustainable funding for the transport system. 

READ ASLO: Could a €29 ticket replace Germany’s €9 transport offer?

SPD parliamentary group vice-chairman Detlef Müller has also joined Green Party politicians in calling for a successor to the €9 ticket in recent days.

“Whether the new ticket costs €39, €49 or €69 is secondary,” he told RND on Thursday. “But it must be within a framework that has a psychological effect and makes it worthwhile for people to leave their cars behind.”

Müller suggested developing a proposal for a continuation of the ticket and its financing by the conference of transport ministers in autumn. However, he warned against underfunding the transport system due to the cut-price deal. 

“It is clear that an inexpensive ticket offer cannot be financed at the expense of the expansion and operation of public transport,” he said.

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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.

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. The Association of German Transport Companies, on the other hand, considers the beginning of March to be a realistic start date.

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 is continuing 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.

Burkert from EVG said that the federal government should be prepared to provide more than €1.5 billion 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.