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End of €9 ticket and fuel cuts – Germany says goodbye to cheap travel

For the last few months, Germans have enjoyed lower-cost travel thanks to the €9 ticket and a tax cut on fuel. But from September 1st, the two initiatives come to an end. Here's what you need to know.

A young man in Stuttgart holds a self-painted sign saying
A young man in Stuttgart holds a self-painted sign saying "We love €9". Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Rettig

In response to the soaring energy prices and cost of living which hit Germany hard after Russia invaded Ukraine in February this year, the coalition government brought in a number of measures to help ease the financial burden on citizens.

These included two measures specifically targeted at reducing the cost of travel: the €9 travel card and a tax cut on petrol and diesel for the months of June, July and August.

Was the €9 ticket a success?

The most headline-grabbing of these measures was the €9 ticket – a discount monthly travel card valid on all forms of regional public transport across Germany for the summer months of June, July and August.

According to Association of German Transport Companies (VDV), 52 million €9 tickets were sold over the three-month period and over 1 billion journeys were made in each of the three months that the ticket was valid, prompting the conclusion that users want cheaper travel and that people are willing to ditch their cars in favour of public transport.

READ ALSO: ‘Complete success’: Germany sees 52 million €9 tickets sold

VDV reported that more than 10 percent of the trips made with the €9 ticket were used for a route that would otherwise have been taken by car – resulting in an estimated saving of around 1.8 million tons of CO2.

An S-Bahn train in Berlin on the last day of the €0 ticket - August 31st.

An S-Bahn train in Berlin on the last day of the €0 ticket – August 31st. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

Deutsche Bahn board member, Evelyn Palla, said that over the three months, more passengers had travelled on regional services than before Covid, and one in five customers had “rediscovered public transportation” thanks to the ticket offer.

Thanks to its validity across all public transport types across the country, the ticket also meant that people who could not usually afford to travel out of their hometowns were able to make frequent day trips, and the nationwide validity made travel far less complicated. 

In an article about the cheap ticket offer on Wednesday, TV presenter and journalist for Germany’s ZDF channel Antje Pieper summarised what she liked about the ticket, summing up many people’s feelings. 

“Regardless of whether I was travelling in Munich, Mainz or Berlin, it was a good feeling not to have to constantly check whether I had the right ticket for local traffic,” she said.”

Meanwhile, a survey conducted by The Local showed that 85.4 percent of readers want the €9 ticket to continue after August. And 47.2 percent of readers said that the reduced cost was the most important issue for them in relation to public transport in Germany. 

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

Was it all good news?

However, the popularity of the ticket did expose gaps and the need for improvements in the railway infrastructure in Germany.

The offer got off to a bumpy start over the bank holiday weekend at the beginning of June, with reports of massively overcrowded trains and people ending up stranded at rural stations.

By mid-July, the two rail unions EVG and GDL were reporting that the sudden spike in passengers was leading to rail staff reaching “breaking point” and heavy wear and tear on trains and at stations.

The deputy chairman of the Railway and Transport Union (EVG), Martin Burkert, told Welt am Sonntag: “I have never experienced such conditions as this summer.”

The need to invest in improving the railway infrastructure is one of the key reasons that has been cited for not immediately following up the €9 ticket with another discount offer.

Federal states are calling for an improvement in the basic services offered by local public transport and for more infrastructure, more staff, and more vehicles – which requires more money.

How beneficial was the fuel tax cut?

While there seems little dispute that consumers felt the financial benefit from the €9 ticket, the verdict is not as positive with the tax cuts on fuels. 

When the tax cut came into force in June, there were allegations that fuel companies would be the ones to benefit most from the initiative and the measure was immediately dubbed “a failure” by the head of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), Marcel Fratzscher.

“The fuel rebate has failed – and it had to fail,” he said. “This type of tax cut can only work if there really is competition.” 

READ ALSO: Has Germany’s fuel tax cut failed?

Jürgen Albrecht, fuel price expert at ADAC, told DPA this week: “In the overall balance, we find that the tax cut has not fully reached the consumer.”

The prices for diesel and gasoline at a gas station in Bavaria in March 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Nicolas Armer

Professor Manuel Frondel of the RWI Leibniz Institute for Economic Research said that the measure also led to an unfair distribution of benefits, with those who have several cars which they drive often benefitting the most. 

“Low-income households, on the other hand, often don’t have a car at all and therefore don’t benefit from the instrument at all,” Frondel told DPA.

However, Professor Frondel did say that there was no doubt that, without the tax cuts, the fuel prices would have been significantly higher over the last few months.

Unlike the €9 ticket, the tax cut certainly didn’t have a positive impact on the environment either, added, pointing out that the measure led to more driving, which is “ecologically counterproductive”.

What’s likely to come next?

In terms of the €9 ticket, discussions about a discounted follow-up have been in full swing for some time now. Several suggestions have been put forward for a successor including a €29, €49 and €69 monthly ticket.

On Wednesday, the German Transport Minister gave the clearest signal yet that a low-cost travel offer is on the cards and announced that – having managed to convince his FDP colleague Christian Lindner –  there will be a follow-up measure once the funding can be worked out. 

READ ALSO: 5 things to know about public transport in Germany after the €9 ticket

In the meantime, however, rail travel prices will return to their older, much higher levels and there is also a threat of further price increases in the near future, as high costs for electricity and diesel impact transport companies – and are likely to be passed on to consumers in many cases. In some regions, surcharges of 3, 4 or almost 5 percent have already been decided on.

For fuel prices, however, the outlook doesn’t look so promising, as prices for gasoline and diesel are expected to rise significantly again with the end of the fuel discount.

From midnight on August 31st the old tax rates will apply again. For petrol they rise by 35 cents per litre and for diesel, by 17 cents per litre. 

READ ALSO: German petrol prices rise before end of fuel discount

However, gas station operators who stock-piled fuel at the cheaper rate may still be able to pass on savings to their customers, which will lead to price differences. 

Jürgen Albrecht told DPA that, even now, the price differences are sometimes in the double-digit cent range, depending on the region and time of day. 

“We will certainly see a mixture of high and low prices in the coming days and weeks,” he said.

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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”.