Berlin to extend €29 travel card and offer a new €9 ‘social ticket’

The Berlin Senate announced plans to continue sales of the €29 ticket for the Berlin AB area until at least the end of March 2023 and to reduce the cost of the social ticket to just €9.

A U-bahn train enters Zoologischer Garten station in Berlin.
A U-bahn train enters Zoologischer Garten station in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

The state-funded €29 monthly ticket has been available in Berlin since the start of October and was introduced as a successor solution to the €9 ticket which was available nationwide over the summer.

Until Tuesday, the plan had been to keep the €29 ticket offer in place until the end of December, before the new nationwide €49 monthly ticket was due to come in January. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How will Berlin’s new €29 transport ticket work? 

However, according to Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey, the Berlin Senate no longer thinks that the €49 ticket will be ready to go on sale by the beginning of 2023, and has therefore decided to extend the €29 ticket for an initial period of three months.

The Senate also announced that starting from January 2023, there will be a new social ticket in Berlin for €9 a month until at least the end of March. Currently, Berlin’s “Sozialticket” costs €27.50 and is available only to those who qualify for the Berlin Pass, such as benefits claimants.

How things will proceed from April 2023 is still open and depends on when the €49 euro nationwide travelcard will be launched.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How will Germany’s new €49 travel ticket work?

According to mobility senator Bettina Jarasch (Greens), one option which is currently on the table is to then “build on the €49 ticket in some places” and offer a discounted version for Berlin. She also put forth her idea of developing a socially graduated public transport fare structure in the region together with the Berlin-Brandenburg Transport Association (VBB).

On Tuesday, the Berlin Senate agreed on a supplementary €2.6 billion budget to help fund this and other relief measures for the capital’s residents. The cheaper ticket alone will cost the state of Berlin €500 million in 2022 and 2023.

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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”.