In Germany, at 9 euros, taking the train becomes “cool”

En Germany, at 9 euros, taking the train becomes “ cool”

Faced with the success of this ticket, which has allowed Germans to travel on the country's regional trains at good prices during the summer, the political authorities are promising a new offer. But it will cost more.

Traveling by train at low cost would have been possible in Germany.

We meet Vipke, an intern from Hanover, in front of an office of the city's public transport agency. She has to get a new monthly pass.

During the summer, Vipke was able to travel unlimited on German regional trains, in addition to enjoying public transport from her city ​​for the modest sum of 9 euros (about $12) per month.

This was briefly offered, before being quickly withdrawn, laments Vipke.

This subscription, available for the months of June, July and August, was a proposal made by the government German to meet inflation. The results of this initiative are brilliant. In three months, 52 million tickets have been sold.

We have 10% more passengers now, notes Andreas Knie, professor at the Technical University of Berlin.

This mobility expert notes that this is something of a catch-up, since the German rail network has lost 20% of its ridership with the COVID-19 pandemic, he says.

In addition, according to a report by the German public transport association VDV, taking into account users who preferred the train to the car, the country emitted 1.8 million tonnes less CO2.

Without looking for a parking space, nothing is easier, says Ursula, a Hannover resident who has started to use public transport more with the 9 euro subscription, and who, during our interview, was looking another season ticket which could enable it to continue to circulate on the network.

Public transit users have to line up to get their tickets.

What alternative?

Even before the end of validity of the subscription, on September 1, discussions were underway in political circles to find a way to follow up on the project.

It's one of the best ideas we've had. We think it is clear that there needs to be a follow-up, launched Green MP Omid Noripour.

Unsurprisingly, talks today revolve around funding issues.

Professor Andreas Knie explains that for the establishment of the 9 euro subscription, the German government spent 2.4 million euros.

“Nine euros was just too cheap. Obviously it couldn't go on like this.

—Ursula, subscription user

Announcing a financial relief package over the weekend, Chancellor Olaf Scholz confirmed that a single ticket will be offered to Germans. The suggested price: between 49 and 69 euros (between $63 and $90) per month, or 5 to 7 times more expensive than the ticket at 9 euros.

Berlin's ruling coalition parties (Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals) appear to have settled their differences over the issue. The Minister of Finance, the Liberal Christian Linder, initially reluctant to continue the experiment, affirmed on August 31 that he had been convinced of the merits of the project, but that the ball was now in the court of the Länder, the German provinces.

The provinces with the highest population density are more open to funding (the project) than the others, says Professor Andreas Knie, explaining that the 9 euros was less used in rural areas, where the rail network is not as developed.

Last year, Austria introduced a 365 euro ($475) per year pass that provides access to all transport in the country. Spain, for its part, has announced that, to combat the effects of inflation, certain train journeys of less than 300 kilometers will be offered free of charge during the autumn.

While the popularity of the €9 ticket has increased ridership on the rails, it has also highlighted some of the difficulties the German network is facing. There were a lot of people on the trains. Some trains were cancelled, remembers for example Vipke, who traveled a lot on the rails during the summer.

According to Professor Andreas Knie, a measure which has the effect of increase in use necessarily revives the discussion around the financing of the transport network.

Our system is a bit old and needs a modernization that is not coming, observes Andreas Knie , from the Technical University of Berlin.

According to him, the long-term impact on the frequency will depend on the solution that the authorities choose to follow up on the summer project. Andreas Knie believes that three months is not long enough to change behavior in depth.

Poster advertising train tickets at 9 euros.

Given the popularity of the 9 euro ticket, however, Andreas Knie believes that the experience has already influenced many Germans' perception of their rail system.

Public transport is cool, he says.

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