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READER INSIGHTS

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

As the final month of Germany's €9 ticket offer is underway, we asked readers what the government should bring in to replace it. Here's what they had to say.

Passengers wait on the platform at Berlin Hauptbahnhof.
Passengers wait on the platform at Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

Of all the measures brought in to tackle rising energy costs in Germany, none has created such a stir as the €9 ticket. 

The prospect of nabbing nationwide travel for less than €10 a month has got people excited about public transport again – so much so that the government is now under pressure to replace it this autumn.

When The Local conducted a survey last month, a whopping 85 percent of readers told us they’d love to see a new discounted ticket once the €9 ticket ends in September.

Just five percent said they wanted the cheap travel to be discontinued, while around 10 percent weren’t sure.

Graph on views on €9 ticket Germany

Source: The Local

Several people also said that the ticket had impacted their lives in positive ways, from saving some cash to getting out and about more in their local area.

I’d love to see a successor to the €9 ticket supported,” said 26 year old Asa from Hamburg. “It’s given me the chance to explore the surrounding towns in a way that would otherwise be financially unviable. Not only that, but I’m getting out and spending money in the city far more often too.”

For 45-year-old Julie in Freiburg, a continuation of the ticket would make a drastic improvement to her and her children’s everyday lives.

“I’m a single mum with two teenagers,” she explained. “It could help us travel more often and visit places, which is very important for my kids’ education.”

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

Four out of five respondents also told us they’d used public transport more often since the introduction of the €9 ticket, and a number of people said they had decided to leave their car at home when going on trips this summer.

The local reader survey on transport

Source: The Local

Bethany in Kaiserslautern said she had replaced at least six long-distance car journeys with public transport in June and July, and plans to take the train rather than the car on a visit to Munich later this month.

“Before, the cost of taking a train wasn’t worth it. But now? I’ll put up with delayed trains for €9,” she said. “Trains were delayed and broken before the €9 ticket, but with trains being so much cheaper now the hassle is worth it.”

For Bavaria resident V. Milhauser, a cheap transport deal could facilitate an even longer term switch to eco-friendly transport.

“As a retiree, I find a reduced pass allows me to sell my car and use public transportation exclusively,” they said. 

‘The key to success is simplicity’

When considering alternatives to the €9 ticket, almost half of our respondents said price was the most important thing, but a third said the flexibility and simplicity of the ticket was their biggest priority.

With the current deal, people can travel on local and regional transport anywhere in Germany with just a single ticket at a set price.

Many readers said they appreciated a few months of no longer navigating complex zones and tariffs and would like to see a similar system continue.

“It gets confusing about what kind of ticket one should buy for certain trips, so having one ticket that covers all routes regionally, at a reduced cost, is the perfect solution,” said Saarbrücken resident Melvin Chelli.

Another reader from Wehrheim agreed with this assessment: “The key to its success is simplicity and that it can be used throughout the whole of Germany,” they said.

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

Public transport priorities graph

Source: The Local

For around 17 percent, a better service and infrastructure were key to successful public transport, while just one respondent valued punctuality the most. 

“I think that the federal government needs to invest more in public transport and that it needs to be more affordable and attractive to the general public,” said 33-year-old Sara, who lives near Rostock. 

“Even before the tourist season and the €9 ticket, another car was needed on the train from Bad Doberan to Rostock. Now they’re stuffing people in and everyone’s like sardines.”

Klimaticket or €29 ticket? 

Though the Transport Ministry is waiting to analyse the impact of the €9 ticket before deciding on its successor, that hasn’t stopped transport companies and other stakeholders weighing in with ideas for the future.

So far, a ‘Klimaticket’ costing €69 per month has been suggested by transport operators, while members of the Green Party have floated the idea of a €29 ticket and others have suggested an annual ticket costing €365 – just €1 per day.

READ MORE: 

Of these options, by far the most popular among our readers was the idea of the €29 ticket, with 53 percent of people saying this was their preferred option. Around a quarter wanted to see the €365 annual ticket, while others were keen on funding transport entirely through taxation.

transport deals graph reader survey

Source: The Local

Keshav Prasad, 33, from Aachen, said he wanted to see a cheap deal a continued in a way that would be sustainable for both individuals and the government.

“Reduced costs for transport is the need of the hour in times of record levels of inflation. It makes life a little easier for working class populations and also has a cumulative effect on climate as well,” he told us.

“I wholeheartedly support the idea and also recommend that it could even be the €29 ticket per month, so that the government isn’t massively burdened but there is also a cushion for the burden on passengers as well.”

Frankfurt resident Iain, 25, agreed that there should be a “middle ground” between the rock-bottom price of the €9 ticket and the prices before the deal was introduced.

However, others said they thought there should be a greater focus on long-distance travel such as the ICE trains and budget offers for commuters.

“I’m against reducing the cost of short-distance tickets: that costs too much and makes people use transport instead of bicycles (or walking),” said 45-year-old Dmitry from Munich.

Despite the differences of opinion, however, everyone agreed that continuing to invest in public transport in Germany would have numerous positive affects on both the climate and congestion.

“You don’t have to be a hippy to see it: even without thinking about global warming, water wars and climate migration apocalypse, the savings from the health sector, due to fewer pollution-related diseases, would be astronomical,” said one reader from Cologne. 

Will it hurt the automobile sector? Frankly, who cares. They had their fun for long enough, and we’ll be dealing with the consequences for a long, long time.”

Thank you to everyone who took the time to fill out our survey. Although we can’t include all the responses, we do read all of them and really appreciate you taking the time to share your views with us. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

‘Double processing time’: Austria and Germany fear non-EU travellers face border delays

Germany, Austria and another of other countries in Europe's Schengen area admit they fear delays and insufficient time to test the process ahead of new, more rigorous EU border checks that will be introduced next year, a new document reveals.

'Double processing time': Austria and Germany fear non-EU travellers face border delays

Schengen countries are tightening up security at the external borders with the introduction of a new digital system (EES) to record the entry and exit of non-EU citizens in May 2023.

The EES will enable the automatic scanning of passports replacing manual stamping by border guards. It will register the person’s name, type of the travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and facial images) and the date and place of entry and exit. The data will be kept in a centralised database on a rolling three-year basis that is re-set at each entry. 

What the EES is intended to do is increase border security, including the enforcement of the 90-day short-stay limit for tourists and visitors. EU citizens and third-country nationals who reside in a country of the Schengen area will not be subject to such checks.

READ ALSO: Foreigners living in EU not covered by new EES border checks

But given its scale, the entry into operation of the system has been raising concerns on many fronts, including the readiness of the physical and digital infrastructure, and the time required for border checks, which could subsequently cause massive queues at borders.

A document on the state of preparations was distributed last week by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties.

The paper contains the responses from 21 member states to a questionnaire about potential impacts on passenger flows, the infrastructure put in place and the possibility of a gradual introduction of the new system over a number of months.

This is what certain the countries have responded. Responses from Denmark, Spain and Sweden do not appear in the report but the answers from other countries will be relevant for readers in those countries.

READ ALSO: What the EU’s new EES border check system means for travel

‘Double processing time’

Austria and Germany are the most vocal in warning that passport processing times will increase when the EES will become operational.

“The additional tasks resulting from the EES regulation will lead to a sharp increase in process times”, which are expected to “double compared to the current situation,” Austrian authorities say. “This will also affect the waiting times at border crossing points (in Austria, the six international airports),” the document continues.

“Furthermore, border control will become more complicated since in addition to the distinction between visa-exempt and visa-required persons, we will also have to differentiate between EES-required and EES-exempt TCN [third country nationals], as well as between registered and unregistered TCN in EES,” Austrian officials note.

Based on an analysis of passenger traffic carried out with the aviation industry, German authorities estimate that checking times will “increase significantly”.

France expects to be ready for the introduction of the EES “in terms of passenger routes, training and national systems,” but admits that “fluidity remains a concern” and “discussions are continuing… to make progress on this point”.

Italy is also “adapting the border operational processes… in order to contain the increased process time and ensure both safety and security”.

“Despite many arguments for the introduction of automated border control systems based on the need for efficiency, the document makes clear that the EES will substantially increase border crossing times,” Statewatch argues.

‘Stable service unlikely by May 2023’

The border infrastructure is also being adapted for collecting and recording the data, with several countries planning for automated checks. So what will change in practice?

Austria intends to install self-service kiosks at the airports of Vienna and Salzburg “in the course of 2023”. Later these will be linked to existing e-gates enabling a “fully automated border crossing”. Austrian authorities also explain that airport operators are seeking to provide more space for kiosks and queues, but works will not be completed before the system is operational.

Germany also plans to install self-service kiosks at the airports to “pre-capture” biometric data before border checks. But given the little time for testing the full process, German authorities say “a stable working EES system seems to be unlikely in May 2023.”

France will set up self-service kiosks in airports, where third-country nationals can pre-register their biometric data and personal information before being directed to the booth for verification with the border guard. The same approach will be adopted for visitors arriving by bus, while tablet devices such as iPads will be used for the registration of car passengers at land and sea borders.

Italy is increasing the “equipment of automated gates in all the main  airport” and plans to install, at least in the first EES phase, about 600 self-service kiosks at the airports of Rome Fiumicino, Milan Malpensa, Venice and in those with “significant volumes of extra-Schengen traffic,” such as Bergamo, Naples, Bologna and Turin.

Switzerland, which is not an EU member but is part of the Schengen area, is also installing self-service kiosks to facilitate the collection of data. Norway, instead, will have “automated camera solutions operated by the border guards”, but will consider self-service options only after the EES is in operation.

Gradual introduction?

One of the possibilities still in consideration is the gradual introduction of the new system. The European Commission has proposed a ‘progressive approach’ that would allow the creation of “incomplete” passenger files for 9 months following the EES entry into operation, and continuing passport stamping for 3 months.

According to the responses, Italy is the only country favourable to this option. For Austria and France this “could result in more confusion for border guards and travellers”. French officials also argue that a lack of biometric data will “present a risk for the security of the Schengen area”.

France suggested to mitigate with “flexibility” the EES impacts in the first months of its entry into service. In particular, France calls for the possibility to not create EES files for third-country nationals who entered the Schengen area before the system becomes operational, leaving this task to when they return later.

This would “significantly ease the pressure” on border guards “during the first three months after entry into service,” French authorities said.

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