Will German transport companies hike fares after €9 ticket?

Germany's popular €9 ticket deal is due to end in September, and there's still no clarity over a new budget offer. Will customers have to deal with hefty price rises in the meantime?

A passenger buys a ticket at a DB ticket machine
A passenger buys a ticket at a DB ticket machine. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Armin Weigel

When September arrives, public transport users will have spent the entire summer enjoying unlimited monthly travel for the cost of a normal day ticket in most metropoles.

Despite recent polls suggesting that a good 85 percent of people want to see the €9 ticket – or a similar deal – continue, the offer is nonetheless due to expire in autumn.

Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) has pledged to discuss a potential successor at the transport ministers’ conference in October – but at least until then, customers may have to reckon with even higher prices for their regular tickets. 

In a survey of transport operators around Germany, DPA sought to find out how many were planning to increase the cost of their tariffs in the near future.


The results revealed that, in a number of districts around Germany, price increases were in the cards.

In some cases, significant tariff increases have already been decided, while in others the corresponding committee meetings were still pending.

In and around Stuttgart, for example, fares will rise by an average of 4.9 percent at the start of the new year, while in the greater Nuremberg area they will go up by three percent.

In the region covered by the Rhein-Main transport association, which includes Frankfurt and the surrounding area, a 3.9 percent increase was implemented in July.

Several of Germany’s regional transport operators are due to meet in September and October to decide on future tariffs.

With the price of fuel and electricity – two major expenses for transport companies – both soaring in recent months, these additional costs are expected to have an impact on ticket prices around the country.

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

The Berlin-Brandenburg transport association (VBB), for example, uses an index of fuel, electricity and consumer prices when deciding on future changes to tariffs.

However, a spokesperson for VBB told Spiegel that while the index was “included in considerations”, it was not the sole criterion for price decisions.

This may explain why even in Stuttgart – where tariffs will go up by almost five percent – the price hikes still remain under the level of inflation.

A future €9 ticket?

In its survey, DPA also gauged opinions on a future cheap travel deal. It found that most transport operators were in favour of a new offer – as long as their costs are reimbursed with state funding.

“For the associations, the first priority in a possible successor arrangement is adequacy,” the Rhein-Sieg transport association explained.

For Stuttgart’s transport operator, additional state funding is necessary for maintaining stock and expanding the offer for consumers, even if regular tariffs remain in place.

“Currently, the transport companies are facing major financial problems in view of galloping energy prices,” a spokesperson told DPA.

Passengers enter the U-Bahn train in Stuttgart

Passengers enter the U-Bahn train in Stuttgart. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Weißbrod

Meanwhile, Munich’s transport association believes that offers like the €9 ticket play a role in encouraging people to transition to public transport in the first place. However, only a good service can convince people to stay in the long-run.

“With the €9 ticket, we have regained the pre-Covid demand as quickly as probably no one expected,” said Knut Ringat, managing director of the Rhein-Main transport association. “But the €9 ticket has also shown that more tracks and additional vehicles are needed so that more people can use public transport.”

In autumn, a federal-state working group wants to present proposals on the future and financing of local public transport.

The Association of German Transport Companies has already proposed a permanent €69 monthly ticket that would apply to public transport nationwide. They estimates that this would cost the federal government around €2 billion a year.

READ ALSO: German transport operators float plans for €69 ‘Klimaticket’

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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”.