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When will Germany’s €49 monthly travel ticket start?

Germany has agreed a new monthly public transport ticket as a follow-up to summer's €9 ticket. But there are question marks over when it will be rolled out.

A regional train in Hamburg.
A regional train in Hamburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Bockwoldt

The new ticket, which will be valid on public transport networks throughout Germany, was agreed on Wednesday following a meeting between Germany’s federal and state governments.

The news has been welcomed across the country, with transport experts saying it was a step forward in changing mobility behaviour and protecting the climate. 

It comes after the hugely successful €9 monthly deal which ran in June, July and August. 

Under the new proposals, people will be able to travel on local buses, trams and trains – as well as regional train services – for €49 per month. 

Politicians have said they want to see the offer – dubbed the Deutschlandticket – come into force on January 1st 2023. 

But doubts have been raised on whether that’s possible, with transport firms saying they don’t consider this feasible.

Oliver Wolff, managing director of the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV), said a March 1st launch is more realistic. 

He said the ticket is a paradigm shift and poses challenges.

“And in this respect, we actually have the task of preparing the digital channels now,” he said. “That takes a bit of time. I therefore assume that we will have a transitional period where old sales formats will also continue to run, i.e. paper tickets too for a certain time. But in the end, we will just have to go digital.”

According to Wolff, Transport Minister Volker Wissing’s idea is that a central platform will be set up for this purpose. “Of course, that will take a bit of preparation time,” he said.

Baden-Württemberg state premier Winfried Kretschmann also said this week that a roll-out was more likely in spring 2023.

Transport Minister Wissing expressed caution after initially pushing for a January 1st start date. He said: “It won’t help if we rush into something now and technical problems make the launch difficult.”

Wissing said the next steps would be for the federal states to clarify the implementation “quickly” with the government, “so that we can name a binding start date in a few weeks”.

READ ALSO: ‘Deutschlandticket’: What you need to know about Germany’s new travel deal

‘Climate protection’

Following the announcement on the ticket, Wissing rejected accusations that people in rural areas will not benefit from the offer.

“Especially in rural areas, citizens will benefit greatly from the ticket,” Wissing told the Rheinische Post and the Bonner General-Anzeiger. He added that public transportation is “usually much more expensive” in rural areas than in cities and metropolitan areas.

Now it will be “cheaper for people in rural areas and they can use the ticket in everyday life,” Wissing said.

The Association of German Transport Companies (VDV) said it saw huge potential in the new Deutschlandticket.

People could use it to permanently change their mobility behaviour, said managing director Wolff.

“We expect it to make a contribution to climate protection, to get more passengers,” he added. “For citizens, it’s a very good offer because it also takes away the complexity in local transport: one ticket for everything. It’s in line with today’s flat-rate mentality.”

However, he pointed that bicycle transport would not be free with the offer, meaning that people will have to buy an additional ticket to take their bike on board. 

Wolff went on to say that the Deutschlandticket only makes sense if extra funding continues to be ploughed into transport.

“It’s no use to anyone, either in rural areas or in cities, to have this ticket if there is no reasonable transport service,” he said.

The federal government’s increase in regionalisation funding is a positive step, he said. “I assume that politicians will now continue to ramp up the service.”

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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”. 

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