Berlin · With the 9-Euro-Ticket, the German government wants to take pressure off consumers and strengthen public transport. Ticket sales are due to start soon - if the law is passed.
Consumers will be able to buy the so-called 9-Euro-Ticket from Deutsche Bahn (DB) from 23 May - provided the Bundestag and Bundesrat approve the scheme this week. The ticket will then be available on the DB-Navigator app as well as all other digital rail channels, the company announced. "It will also be available at around 5500 Deutsche Bahn ticket vending machines and at over 400 DB travel centres in train stations," it said.
Passengers can use the 9-Euro-Monthly-Ticket on local and regional transport throughout Germany – in all cities and across all network borders. The tickets can be purchased online or at the ticket counter from other public transport companies. Many local transport providers have already announced that they will also start selling them on 23 May.
Dispute over money
But the plan thought up by the so-called traffic light coalition of SPD, Greens and FDP still has to be passed by the Bundestag on Thursday (19 May) and by the Bundesrat one day later. There is still a dispute about money. The federal government is financing the project by transferring 2.5 billion euros to the federal states to compensate for the loss of revenue. That is not enough for them.
"If the federal government thinks it can be applauded for handing out a three-month consolation prize at the expense of the Länder, and that others will then foot the bill, it is very wrong," Bavaria's Transport Minister Christian Bernreiter (CSU) told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur. Unless the federal government fully compensates for the cost of the ticket and significantly increases funding for regional trains, he said, the scheme will run into a brick wall in the Bundesrat.
"Under the current conditions, I do not see Bavaria agreeing to the law in the Bundesrat. Real relief for citizens would involve more federal funding to permanently strengthen regional trains, thus improving service," Bernreiter emphasised. Instead, the federal government is offering "a flash in the pan", at the end of which there is a threat of significant service cuts.
Project could fail
The chairperson of the Conference of Transport Ministers, Bremen's Senator Maike Schaefer (Greens), emphasised that the federal states had repeatedly demanded that urgently needed funding for public transport needed to be increased. Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) should have known, at the latest after the Transport Ministers' Conference in Bremen at the beginning of May, that the consent of the Länder was shaky. "If the nine-euro ticket, on which high expectations of citizens in Germany are pinned, topples now, the federal transport minister must take responsibility," said Schaefer.
Baden-Württemberg's Transport Minister Winfried Hermann emphasised that if the federal government is not prepared to increase funds for regional trains, the overall package of fuel rebate and 9-Euro-Ticket could fail in the Bundesrat. At the moment, an informal conciliation procedure could still prevent the impending blockade, said the Green politician.
9-Euro-Ticket "unique opportunity”
In June, July and August, the special tickets would be valid for using local and regional transport throughout Germany - for 9 euros a month, and thus much less than normal monthly tickets. This is part of the relief package with which the traffic light coalition is reacting to the current high energy prices. At the same time, it is intended as a trial offer to attract more customers for buses and trains.
With the 9-Euro-Ticket, there is "a unique opportunity to get more people excited about public transport and climate-friendly rail in the long term", announced the head of the responsible railway subsidiary DB Regio, Jörg Sandvoß. According to Deutsche Bahn, the 9-Euro-Ticket will always be valid from the first to the last day of the respective month. So if you only buy it in the middle of the month, you can only use it for the remaining half of the month. However, it will be possible to buy tickets for all three months at the same time from the start of sales on 23 May.
Bus sector concerned
The private bus sector has warned of negative effects, especially on long-distance bus journeys. In a statement to the Bundestag, the Federal Association of German Bus Companies explained that the ticket's nationwide validity would make it a "long-distance flat rate" in addition to taking financial strain off commuters. So it was to be expected that many people would decide in favour of the 9-Euro-Ticket and against the long-distance bus when planning their journey. "And this after more than two years of losing passengers because of Covid."
Bus hire companies are also likely to feel competition from the 9-Euro-Ticket, the association explained. "Many school trips, school excursions or club trips will no longer organised by coach but planned in such a way that they can also be made by regional rail transport." In order to prevent bus companies from getting into liquidity problems due to collapsing fare revenues, it must be ensured that bus companies will receive compensation already in May before the start of the campaign in June.
Original text: dpa
Translation: Jean Lennox