Bonn On January 1, the prices for season tickets on the Rhein-Sieg public transport system will increase by an average of 2.5 per cent. "An impertinence", says an annoyed season ticket holder. A discussion about possible levers for cheaper season tickets has been restarted.
Politicians responsible for planning in Bonn are calling for a debate on future prices of season tickets in the public transport system of the Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Sieg (VRS). By a narrow majority, the general meeting of the VRS 2019 had approved tariff increases this year and next by an average of 2.5 per cent per year for season ticket holders. This is intended to offset rising costs for personnel, fuel and materials. The next price increase is scheduled for 1 January. Single tickets are excluded from this. Ute Steuer-Winckler is one example of the fact that the upcoming price increases are causing annoyance among customers: "The announced price increase exclusively for monthly ticket holders from January onwards prompts me to cancel my monthly subscription at the end of the year," the 77-year-old explained to the GA in annoyance. It was "an impertinence what the VRS has come up with". After all, it is the monthly ticket holders who are the mainstay of public transport services.
The Green transport politician Rolf Beu from Bonn, a member of the VRS association meeting, pointed out that the secret ballot at the time had only been carried by a majority of one vote. Three out of four Bonn delegates entitled to vote had voted against the tariff increase, but had been outvoted by representatives of the other cities and districts. "This is no longer acceptable in future. How this can be achieved must be investigated and negotiated", said Beu.
He did not want his demand to be understood as meaning that the city should terminate its membership of the association. But one had to discuss solutions for cheaper season tickets. One possibility, in Beu's view, would be to compensate for lower revenues in some districts. Background: Public transport plays a greater role in cities like Bonn and Cologne and is more dense than in rural areas.
Free tickets for senior citizens?
Apart from the argument often put forward that the federal and state governments may be more willing to co-finance local public transport, Beu considers it worth considering that in cities like Bonn public employers should also share the costs of local transport. They pay neither trade tax nor property tax.
Gaby Mayer, the transport policy spokeswoman of the SPD, and Henriette Reinsberg of the CDU - both members of the VRS Zweckverband (special purpose association) alongside Beu and Bonn's city building councillor Helmut Wiesner - also think that the federal government should contribute to the financing of public transport operations. Neither of them considers a withdrawal from the association structure, which brings many advantages for passengers, to be sensible.
However, Mayer said that one could think about where money could be saved. The Rhineland Regional Transport Association (NVR), which is responsible for maintaining and expanding parts of the infrastructure such as the rail routes for the suburban railways, is participating in the modernisation project for the stations with one third of the costs (the federal government and Deutsche Bahn each pay the other third). "These investments are typical DB issues," said Mayer. It would be useful to take a close look at whether the VRS could enable certain groups of people such as schoolchildren or senior citizens to travel free of charge.
Final report of VRS not yet available
Reinsberg said that the CDU, too, supported the principle of more favourable permanent tariffs, even though the CDU had largely voted in favour of the tariff increases in the association meeting. However, he said that the hard-up municipalities were dependent on federal and state subsidies. Up to now, the VRS has had to finance rising costs either by increasing tariffs or the municipalities have had to increase their subsidies. In Bonn, contributions towards local transport by the municipal utilities costs the city about 30 million euros a year, which are charged to profitable subsidiaries within the SWB group.
Reinsberg emphasised that Lord Mayor Ashok Sridharan and Rhein-Sieg District Administrator Sebastian Schuster had already presented their idea of a 365-Euro annual ticket for Bonn and the Rhein-Sieg District. A final report of the VRS was not yet available. There had already been criticism of the 365-ticket for Bonn as part of the lead city project supported by the federal government. The temporary offer raised questions by neighbouring municipalities to find out why Bonn gets such a ticket, but not themselves.
(Original text: Philipp Königs / Translation: Mareike Graepel)