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Fears over future of €49 ticket as first German city opts out

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
Fears over future of €49 ticket as first German city opts out
A sign for the €49 'Deutschland' public transport ticket in Frankfurt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

The northern city of Stendal has become the first district in Germany to stop accepting the €49 monthly travel ticket. Is this an isolated incident - or a sign of things to come?

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What's happening with the €49 ticket?

The small town of Stendal in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt is slated to be the first municipality to partially leave Germany's nationwide public transport ticket on January 1st, 2024.

That means that a €49 Deutschlandticket - which covers all local and regional public transport in Germany - will still cover all such transport in Germany, but not be valid on buses within the limits of the 41,000-strong town. Public buses which being or end journeys in Stendal will also no longer be covered under the €49 ticket.

It will still work on rail transport to, from and within the town, but people travelling on buses there will need to purchase an extra ticket from January 1st. This will include six buses in Stendal itself and 35 heading into and out of it on journeys to places like Seehausen, Osterburg, and Tangermünde.

Stendal is leaving the ticket deal due to questions over ongoing financial support from federal and state governments - which agreed to cover the costs in 2023 but haven't reached definitive plans on ongoing financing. It estimated that being part of the ticket would lead to an extra €40,000 in costs for Stendal in the first four months of 2024, and so the town council voted not to recognise the ticket within city limits.

That's led to concerns other local authorities - particularly ones in financial trouble like Stendal - may follow suit.

READ ALSO: Will Germany's €49 ticket be continued?

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Could this happen elsewhere?

So far, the state government of Saxony-Anhalt has said that Stendal is an isolated case and the state's minister of infrastructure has said that no other municipality in Saxony-Anhalt is expected to make a similar decision.

"The residents of the district will be the ones particularly affected by this decision," said minister Lydia Hüskens (FDP).

The Association of German Districts though says Stendal's decision isn't unexpected, given that federal and state governments haven't been clear enough about assuming the costs of the ticket, instead of local districts.

"The states must oblige the districts to use the Deutschlandticket and thus also assume the responsibilities of financing it," association president Reinhard Sager said, adding that if state governments don't pony up the cash, local districts have to either leave the ticket or reduce their public transport offerings. Sager says with that in mind, Stendal's decision isn't unexpected.

Buses in Stendal Saxony-Anhalt

Buses wait at a station in Stendal, Saxony-Anhalt. Buses in Stendal will no longer be covered by the €49 ticket in future. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Cevin Dettlaff

Thuringia's transport minister Susanna Karawanskij (Left) criticised the decision, saying it could lead to huge confusion among passengers if other municipalities follow suit.

"Our goal is, of course, that the Deutschlandticket is offered across the board, so that we don't get a patchwork quilt of various districts and regions around Germany," she said.

Thuringia has legally mandated the €49 ticket in the state - which means that no local district there can opt out of it. However, this is the only one of Germany's 16 federal states with a law like this, meaning that other cities around Germany are able to opt out.

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Altmark Green district association chair Christian Hauer says the decision should be take seriously.

"We know other districts are struggling with it and it could be a signal to other districts," he warned. "The entire Deutschlandticket could simply collapse," he said.

READ ALSO: Public transport use up in Germany 'thanks to €49 ticket'

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