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What happens to Germany’s €9 ticket at the end of August?

Germany's €9 ticket runs out at the end of August, but many people are eager for it to be extended, or for a similar ticket to be introduced. We look at what politicians and experts are saying, and the effect of the ticket on the population.

A person holds the €9 ticket in front of a regional train in Frankfurt.
A person holds the €9 ticket in front of a regional train in Frankfurt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Arne Dedert

It’s fair to say that the €9 monthly ticket experiment has made its mark on Germany. After it launched in June, millions of people took advantage of the heavily-reduced transport offer. 

It allows people to travel on all public transport throughout the whole of Germany – including regional trains – for just €9 per month. That adds up to €27 in total for three months. Regular monthly tickets vary across the country, but typically cost around €80 to €100. 

But has it persuaded people to switch from their cars to public transport? And what’s the political appetite for an extension, or a similar ticket after the offer expires at the end of the month? Here’s a look at the latest.

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

What do politicians say about a €9 ticket follow-up?

Germany’s coalition government – made up of the Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats – are split on the future of low-cost travel tickets. 

The climate-friendly Greens are pushing for a successor to come into force as soon as possible after the €9 offer ends. The ticket is an “inspiration” that shouldn’t be allowed to fade out, said Stefan Gelbhaar, Transport Expert of the Green parliamentary group in the Bundestag.

“We could find an interim solution for autumn,” he said, adding that this would give experts and politicians time to analyse exactly what a permanent ticket could look like.

But for this to happen, the Transport Ministry and the federal states would have to come to an agreement – and as quickly as possible.

Transport Minister Volker Wissing, of the Free Democrats (FDP), has repeatedly called the ticket a “success”, but stalls when it comes to the crucial question of financing.

Wissing points to the states taking on more of the costs. The Länder say they are interested in a follow-up ticket, but see it as the federal government’s turn to increase funding.

Meanwhile, the Finance Minister Christian Lindner, also of the FDP, has repeatedly ruled out a €9 ticket follow-up, saying the budget is not there. 

“The fuel rebate and the €9 ticket are coming to an end,” Lindner told Bild am Sonntag. “There will be no follow-up regulation.”

But experts, like Philipp Kosok of the think tank Agora Verkehrswende, say both sides “belong at the same table”.

“The Transport Minister should not be allowed to get off lightly, and neither should the federal states,” he added.

READ ALSO: Germany’s €9 ticket should be extended by two months, say travel chiefs

People get on and off an S-Bahn train in Frankfurt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Arne Dedert

So the ticket is popular in politics, and is helping people in the face of rising inflation (while also apparently helping stabilise inflation) – but no one wants to figure out how it could be funded in future. 

Wissing recently said he wants to wait for studies to analyse the effect of the ticket before a possible follow-up offer is introduced either at the end of this year or next year.

What effect has the ticket had so far anyway?

In the beginning, the €9 ticket was primarily a socio-political instrument: a gift to the people in Germany amid the rising cost of living (although it is funded with tax revenues).

But it is perhaps not quite reaching one of the main goals of getting people out of theirs cars, initial studies suggest.

“We have very little shift effect,” said Christian Böttger, professor of transport at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences.

“So the idea of people switching from cars doesn’t seem to work.”

That is shown by mobile phone data, which can be used to evaluate the routes people take. Instead, customers who use public transport anyway are now using it even more thanks to the ticket.

However, Dresden mobility researcher Jan Schlüter is more positive. In his survey, seven percent of car drivers said they would now try public transport. 

“Seven percent is a huge number, because it is only a limited period of time,” he said. “How many (more) people will just change their habits?”

READ MORE:

How much could a permanent ticket cost?

Even though some are calling for the €9 ticket to be extended for a limited time, most people believe that is not sustainable in the long-term.

“For the three months it was a super bargain offer,” said Stefan Gelbhaar from the Green Party. “But everyone knows that mobility costs money. People are willing to spend that.”

The idea that it doesn’t have to be super cheap is supported by initial survey data: depending on where they live, people are willing to pay significantly more. In the cities, for instance, transport customers are willing to pay around €60, says Schlüter, who is based at the TU Dresden.

“In rural areas it goes towards €100 or even more.”

The Association of German Transport Companies has proposed a ticket for €69 per month. But even that price would mean it would need subsidies of €2 billion. There have also been calls for a €365 annual ticket, and a €29 monthly ticket. 

Discussions have also taken place about socially differentiated prices rather than one ticket for all. The Greens, for example, can imagine this particularly during the energy crisis. But others say that simplicity is the key, and that small-scale tariff could have a deterrent effect.

READ MORE: 

Will different regions go there on way?

At the weekend, the Lower Saxony transport ministry said it considered a regional ticket possible that would apply to northern German states. 

“If a nationwide ticket is not feasible, the five northern German states could also set something up as an alternative,” the Lower Saxony Ministry of Transport said.

But the state’s transport minister Bernd Althusmann (CDU) said a follow-up solution would only be possible with a significant increase in federal funding. “It can’t be the case that the federal government initiates the ticket, leaves the implementation to the states, lets itself be celebrated for the success and then doesn’t want to take responsibility for a follow-up solution,” he said. 

Once again, it is the funding of the ticket that is preventing anyone from finding a solution on the future of low-cost transport in Germany. 

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How the Greens want to replace Germany’s €9 ticket deal

New proposals drafted by the Green Party have set out plans for two new cheap travel tickets in Germany as well as a shake-up of the country's travel zones. Here's what you need to know.

How the Greens want to replace Germany's €9 ticket deal

What’s going on?

Germany’s €9 travel deal has been hugely popular this summer, with an estimated 30 million or so passengers taking advantage of the offer in June alone. Now the last month of the three-month offer is underway, there are hopes that the ticket could be replaced by another deal that offers simple, affordable travel on a regional or national basis.

There have been a few ideas for this floating around, including a €365 annual ticket and a €69 monthly ticket pitched by German transport operators. Now the Green Party has weighed in with a concept paper setting out plans for two separate travel tickets to replace the €9 ticket. The paper was obtained by ARD Hauptstadtstudio on Friday. 

Why do they want two different tickets?

The first ticket would be a regional one costing just €29 a month and the second would be a €49 that, much like the €9 ticket, would be valid for the whole of Germany.

This would allow people who mainly stay in their local region to opt for the most cost-effective option while long-distance commuters or those who want to travel further afield could opt for the nationwide offer.

Presumably the ticket would once again be valid for local and regional transport only rather than long-distance trains like the ICE. 

To simplify the system even more, the Greens also want to introduce new travel zones for the regional monthly tickets.

READ ALSO: Has Germany’s €9 rail ticket been a success?

How would the travel zones change?

According to the paper, Germany would be divided into eight regional zones that would include the Berlin-Brandenburg area, the eastern German states of Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt and the northern states of Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania. 

The zones take passengers “statewide at a minimum”, the paper says, for example in the larger states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and North-Rhine Westphalia.

However, as the map below shows, states will also be clustered together to make larger regions.

One of the major draws of the €9 ticket has been the flat-rate system that allows passengers to travel anywhere in the country using the same ticket. This appears to be what the Greens are trying to replicate with their proposals. 

READ ALSO: What happens to Germany’s €9 ticket at the end of August?

How would this be financed? 

As you might expect, the Green Party is placing less eco-friendly forms of transport in the crosshairs as it looks for cash to fund the cheap tickets.

The first way to free up cash would be to end tax breaks for people with company cars. In addition, taxes on CO2 emissions would be increased. 

This would result in “additional revenues for the federal government and the states, which could flow seamlessly into the financing of cheap tickets”, the paper states. 

However, the Greens don’t set out how much money they think this would bring in or how much the discounted tickets would cost the state in total. 

Is this definitely going to happen?

At the moment, it seems that the Greens are the main voices in the coalition government pushing for a longer term travel deal – and they continue to face opposition from the pro-business FDP.

Unfortunately for the Green Party, the FDP happen to be heading up two crucial ministries that could both play a role in blocking a future offer: the Finance Ministry and the Transport Ministry. 

However, with four out of five people saying they want to see a successor to the €9 ticket in autumn, Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) is currently under pressure to come up with a replacement as soon as possible. 

A passenger sits on the platform a Berlin Hauptbahnhof

A passenger sits on the platform a Berlin Hauptbahnhof waiting for a train. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Joerg Carstensen

At a press conference a few weeks ago, he promised to discuss this with the state transport ministers after analysing how successful the ticket had been.

In particular, researchers will want to look at how many people ended up leaving the car at home and taking the bus or train instead.

Though the data on this is inconclusive at the moment, some studies have shown reduced congestion on the roads while the ticket was running.

In a survey of The Local’s readers conducted last month, 80 percent of respondents said they had used public transport more with the €9 ticket and 85 percent said they wanted to see a similar deal continue in the autumn.

Of the options on the table so far, a monthly €29 ticket was by far the most popular choice.

READ ALSO: ‘Affordable and simple’: What foreigners in Germany want to see after the €9 ticket

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