Germany wants to introduce a public transport pass with a cost of 49 euros a month if authorities can agree on how to fund it. Valid nationwide, the ticket could be introduced as early as January 1st, 2023. The proposal follows a highly successful 9-euro ticket that was on sale for three months this summer as part of the government’s efforts to help people reduce gasoline use, help combat inflation and promote more environmentally friendly means of transport.
According to the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV), 52 million €9 rail passes were sold in Germany over the three months. The pass, which expired on August 31st, offered passengers unlimited use of local and regional German trains between the months of June and August. The VDV asked the German government to introduce a replacement for the rail pass arguing that around 1.8 million tons of CO2 were spared during the offer period, a reduction equivalent to planting 90 million trees.
If we take the transport transition and climate change seriously, we must act now.Oliver Wolff, VDV CEO
Regarding the new pass, one of its biggest attractions for users is that it will be valid on all of the country’s regional bus, train and streetcar networks, each of which has myriad fare options that many find bewildering to navigate. “What fabulous news,” Terry Reintke, co-president of the Greens in the European Parliament, wrote on her Twitter account. “And yes: we need to massively expand public transport.”
“With the 9-euro ticket we showed that simplicity is better,” Transport Minister Volker Wissing announced after a meeting with his counterparts from Germany’s 16 states. Wissing said the new ticket would not be printed and could be bought by the month or as a continuous pass. Like this summer’s €9 ticket, it would not be valid for intercity trains.
Doubts remain, however, about its financing. The federal government has offered to subsidize the pass with 1.5 billion euros annually; the states have expressed their willingness to do the same, pending agreement on federal funding for regional train services. According to Euractiv, the final decision will be made next week, during the conference of state premiers. Besides the new pass, which will be partly financed at both federal and regional levels, states want additional funding to expand their transport networks.
€49 is not €9 but it’s still a good step forward for affordable, climate-friendly and social mobility.Terry Reintke, co-president of the Greens in the European Parliament
Greenpeace criticized the plan and said €49 was too expensive for many people. The environmental group says its own research shows that a 29-euro ticket would double ridership without requiring additional subsidies.
Meanwhile, public transport operators complained about the risks linked to a limited budget. They warned that without committing to the necessary financing to operate buses and trains, the benefit for the public is limited. “I understand that the nationwide public transport ticket is of particular interest to the public. But the financing issues are just as pressing,” Oliver Wolff, head of VDV, said in a statement. “We run the risk of having to discontinue public transport services because they can no longer be financed due to cost increases.”
Data from Germany’s federal statistical office Destatis has shown that short-distance train travel in Germany has increased over the past three months. Compared to the first quarter of the year (January to March), it went up 46%.
According to the VDV, roughly 21 million €9 passes were sold in June, in addition to the 10 million subscribers who automatically received the discounted ticket. Surveys of 6,000 public transport users conducted by the VDV and Deutsche Bahn revealed that one in five people have been encouraged to switch to public transport for the first time. The €9 pass has cost the German government about €2.5bn, according to Euronews.