Germany’s 9 euro ticket has created ‘momentum’ for public transport

(CNN) — On my way from the town of Brühl to the train station, I passed a UNESCO heritage site. The 18th-century Augustusburg Palace – one of Germany’s earliest examples of Rococo architecture – attracts visitors from all over the world. Brühl itself, 11 miles south of Cologne, has a large pedestrianized street, acres of parkland and the Max Ernst Museum – where the artist was born.

I did not intend to go to Brühl. I never thought of doing a tour in Germany. I had a connecting flight at night in Düsseldorf and I planned to do some work at my hotel, then walk around the city.

But on the advice of a member of staff at Düsseldorf airport, I changed my mind. I was about to buy a train ticket into the city — 3 euros — when he said I would have the 9 euro (about $9) option. “You can go somewhere,” he said.

The author went on a quest to the Augustusburg castle in Brühl.

The author went on a quest to the Augustusburg castle in Brühl.

Rick Neves/Adobe Stock

So I shopped, left my things at my hotel, and went straight back to the train station. The plan is to go to Cologne, just to see its cathedral – why not, if it’s empty? But I remember that almost 100 years ago, my family lived nearby, in Brühl. So after half an hour on the train, instead of getting out of the station in Cologne, I switched platforms and got on the other one. About 15 minutes later, I was in Brühl. It was just a trip so I could see my family’s old home.

The Düsseldorf to Brühl trip was 9 euros one way – for that price I got a return trip and two flights, instead of the “real” total of 24 euros. But this is not about saving 15 euros – for me, the 9 euro ticket gave me an idea of ​​what Germany has to offer. Even in less than a day. I look forward to returning. A Rococo palace is not enough.

I’m not alone. Germany’s decision this summer to offer unlimited travel for 9 euros per month – which will expire a week from today, on August 31 – is a great success.

Nearly 60 million tickets were sold at the beginning of August, according to the VDV, the Association of German Transporters – in other words, covering May and June.

There are 10 million subscribers per month, who have tickets, 21 million tickets for June and 17 million for July.

UK travel blogger Alexei Gaynanov was already planning an 11-day trip to Germany when the 9 euro ticket was announced. He bought an Interrail card, which allows unlimited train travel – but said the 9 euro ticket “opened up the rest of the network for us – the train, trams and buses.

“It makes travel much easier and eliminates the hassle of figuring out which ticket to get.

The air is better

Air quality in Germany has improved by 6% while the ticket costs 9 euros.

Air quality in Germany has improved by 6% while the ticket costs 9 euros.

Christoph Soeder/dpa/photo courtesy/Getty Images

And it didn’t result in happy customers. A study of air quality in the summer for the University of Potsdam’s Center for Economic Policy Analysis showed a “significant drop in air quality of more than 6%.”

Author Niklas Gohl told CNN that “the impact is greater in urban agglomerations and areas with a public transport system.” And he said it bodes well for the future.

“Our paper will have a public transport fund like a 9 euro ticket, at least in the short term, which can promote better ways of transport and reduce air pollution. “

The project ends at the end of the month, but it has sparked a movement for better, and greener, public transport. From September until the end of the year, most of Spain’s domestic train travel will be completely free.

And Germany itself – realizing its forecast of 30 million tickets sold every month – is considering a 69 euro-a-month ticket.

Agitation

The ticket is heavily subsidized, but an unlimited travel ticket, which is more expensive, is an option.

The ticket is heavily subsidized, but an unlimited travel ticket, which is more expensive, is an option.

Arne Dedert/dpa/photo courtesy/Getty Images

It is equivalent to 824 euros per year – much less than the 1,095-euro annual Klimatiket in Austria, which allows public transport for one year.

Oliver Wolff, the CEO of VDV, said that the “momentum” of the 9 euro ticket “has created a situation from which we cannot return.”

He wrote in a statement that the price can be purchased at 9 euros for three months, and it is expected that a new monthly ticket will be introduced for 69 euros.

“Government-commissioned market research … and other information will show a clear picture of the possibilities and limitations of a universal travel ticket as a social solution,” he said.

“We are asking for a full ÖPNV-Klimaticket (public travel tickets) for 69 euros per month as a two-way travel right.”

A spokesman for the German Ministry for Digital and Transport told CNN that the ticket is a “relief measure” against rising energy and fuel prices. “The coalition must decide how much of that aid work will continue.

They added that Volker Wissing, the federal minister for digital and transport, created a working group when he took office in December 2021 “to work together on expansion and restructuring will be discussed by the Council of Transport Ministers in the autumn.

“This gives us the opportunity to make public transport more convenient and beautiful for all citizens,” they said.

Niklas Gohl, the author of the air pollution paper, said that in the long run, the amount of money should be calculated.

The trains are full, but there are few tourists

Trains are often crowded as people rush to enjoy a near-free ride.

Trains are often crowded as people rush to enjoy a near-free ride.

Henning Kaiser/dpa/photo courtesy/Getty Images

A 9 euro ticket is not always fun. Travelers complain about overcrowded buses at peak times, and Gaynanov knows this all too well. “The auto industry can’t keep up with the demand during the busy summer,” he said.

“Every train we took was busy but the most popular destinations on the day were trains that were almost full, there was no space available.

“We can’t have one train – that’s where the first four cars go one place and the last four cars go another.”

“Many services on the DB site are running slowly due to lack of staff. The result is that I will have something similar but maybe outside of the busy summer months.”

Although I had a taste, on my first day of use. Driving through Cologne on my way back from Brühl at rush hour, there were two security guards on the stairs to the platform telling people where to stand. The train was completely packed and some passengers were sitting, unable to stand, in the first class.

Whether these travelers are locals, local tourists or international tourists attracted by public transport in the summer where snow reigns and car rental prices are high, is unknown. .

Figures released in August by the Federal Statistics Office of Destatis showed that overnight stays in Germany increased by 60% in June 2022, compared to the previous year. However, that number is domestic tourists – there will not be an assessment of visitors until December – and the registration points for foreigners are mentioned. Trips to Germany on Lastminute.com and Germany’s Enchanting Travels are down 25% this summer compared to 2019.

“Although there is still a hangover from Covid-19, demand is growing,” said Parik Laxminarayan, CEO of Enchanting Travels and USTO, who predicted that 2023 will see “similar or higher” numbers in first of 2019.

“Although measures such as the 9 euro ticket have led to an increase in travel within Germany, it has not had an impact on our business. A low-cost ticket for public transport can be a good thing for citizens, but it’s a point of sale for a US visitor buying a trip made to Europe,” he said.

Wherever those visitors come from, Wolff said, the price increase to 69 euros is the golden ratio – it can turn drivers out of their cars, but it’s not so easy that millions of randoms (like me) can fix cars with spur. -of-the-minute travel. That plan will cost about 2 billion euros, he said.

The Falkenlust castle in Brühl was an unexpected delight for the CNN reporter.

The Falkenlust castle in Brühl was an unexpected delight for the CNN reporter.

Boris Breytman/Adobe Stock

And although he believed that the new program could be established for September 1, when the current one ends, so far nothing has been announced – and a spokesperson for VDV said that there is no time to implement it a new ticket in time for September.

On August 2, the government called for proposals to reintroduce local traffic. And a week before the death of the 9 euro ticket, a new environmental campaign of hydrogen-powered trains was announced for a 60-mile route in Lower Saxony.

So Germany joins Austria and introduces a Klimatiket? Currently, there is no confirmation.

But with the climate crisis increasing, and Europe’s rivers drying up this summer, the success of the 9 euro ticket will undoubtedly be at the forefront of politicians’ minds this fall.

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