Germany offers €9-a-month public transport ticket

Germans can travel the country for just €9 a month from Wednesday under a package of government measures designed to cushion the effects of rampant inflation and higher fuel prices in Europe’s largest economy.

The measures also included a cut in fuel taxes which had the immediate effect of bringing down the price of petrol and diesel at station forecourts to well below €2 a litre.

According to statistics from Adac, the German motoring association, “E10” petrol was 30 cents a litre cheaper and diesel about 14 cents cheaper on Wednesday morning than 24 hours earlier.

Inflation in Germany stood at 7.9 per cent in May, as Russia’s war on Ukraine pushes up energy prices, disrupts supply chains and throws agricultural exports into disarray. The government has come under increasing pressure to help out hard-pressed consumers.

The €9 ticket is designed to provide relief and persuade people to switch from cars to public transport — a key objective for the Greens, one of the three parties in Germany’s Social Democrat-led coalition government. Berlin has promised Germany’s 16 states €2.5bn to compensate them for the extra costs associated with the cheaper ticket.

The ticket, which is valid for all public transport though not for long-distance travel by Intercity buses and trains, has already proven a huge hit. Some 7mn had already been pre-sold by Monday, according to VDV, which represents Germany’s regional transportation companies.

The VDV estimates that around 30mn people will buy a €9 ticket in each of the three months that the offer will be in effect.

Some experts and consumer groups had worried that it would lead to overcrowding on buses and trains, especially on routes popular with day-trippers. But so far there is little evidence of that.

“The trains weren’t excessively busy, but today was a normal working day,” a spokesman for Deutsche Bahn told the agency DPA. The June 6 “bank holiday weekend will doubtless be a challenge”, he added.

Germany is one of several countries in Europe that has moved to reduce the cost of public transport, in part to encourage the shift away from car use. Austria introduced the “climate ticket” last year, which allows its citizens to use nationwide public transport for the equivalent of just €3 a day. Cities in France — including Niort, Dunkirk and Montpellier — have also cut fares.

People buy train tickets next to signs announcing the €9 ticket
About 7mn cut-price tickets have been pre-sold, with an estimated 30mn people expected to buy one in the three months that the offer is open © Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Lisbon has announced plans to offer free transport to some residents, including the elderly and students. And Luxembourg made all public transport free of charge in 2020.

Though the German €9 ticket has been widely praised by consumer groups, it has its critics. Lukas Ilffländer of the German passenger association Pro Bahn said he was worried people might be put off by overcrowded trains and switch back to driving cars.

“The €9 ticket will show that the current infrastructure is not suited to making such an offer on a long-term basis,” he told ZDF TV.

Experts hope the scheme will provide useful information for future planning decisions. “We’ve never had such a large-scale experiment in public transport before,” Philipp Kosok of the think-tank Agora Verkehrswende told ZDF. “Researchers into mobility are really looking forward to the data.”

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