49-euro ticket: The magic of the Germany ticket could wear off shortly after the start

49-euro ticket: The magic of the Germany ticket could wear off shortly after the start

49-Euro-Ticket The magic of the Deutschlandticket could wear off shortly after the start

The new Deutschlandticket started on May 1st. It should bring the revolution for local public transport. But the problems are piling up behind the desire – they could prevent the turnaround in traffic.

Volker Wissing gets his own train to set off. But he has to fight his way through first. At the end of April, the transport minister pushed his way through the crowd at Berlin Central Station for a brief moment, then he looked for the escalator down to platform 5, section G. Slip through an improvised barrier and the babble of voices from above suddenly evaporated. Now only a red regional train is waiting for the minister. The advertisement exults: “Germany is getting on”.

The scene is a bit reminiscent of the Hogwarts Express, only without magic or flying brooms, but with a microphone. Wissing celebrates the launch of the new Deutschlandticket on his platform and with his train: the minister speaks of a “tariff revolution” with 750,000 subscriptions. From a “game changer” for local public transport (ÖPNV) after only one year of planning.

Problems are a thing of the past in this story: no rush to the trains like back then with the 9-euro ticket. Vacation spots like Sylt are safe. “We learned a lot,” says Wissing. The end is now “complicated and exhausting”. No more “riddles in front of a ticket machine” and no more questions “about honeycombs, steps and circles.”

At least at first glance, this is true for customers. In fact, since May 1st they can jet through Germany for 49 euros a month on regional buses and trains. Anyone who wants to criticize it still finds it too expensive, would have liked to have had the ticket faster or complained about the lack of integration into ICE journeys. But you have to acknowledge it: there it is.

At second glance, however, contrary to the minister’s promise, it remains “complicated and exhausting”. Because despite the one ticket and one tariff: In the background, the much-mocked “Holy Roman Empire of German public transport” continues to exist – and could still prevent this great awakening.

Also read: Why the train collects the Deutschlandticket twice

This includes 27 transport authorities, among which 75 transport associations and 450 transport companies cavort. A tangle of local powers who rule a jungle of their own tariff systems, individual tenders, special requests and expensive administrations in their territory. Who also defend their gold chests by all means. In other words: Despite the new ticket and clarified federal-state financing, further distribution battles only seem to be a matter of time. Observers are already worried that the price of 49 euros will soon have to be corrected upwards.

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If you ask around at the transport companies, the jubilation is muted. From there it says: A billion-dollar financial injection from the federal government should actually help to implement the new Germany tariff on site, but instead the money seeps away in the principalities – serves to preserve outdated structures and bloated administrations, which are now due to the ticket are actually largely superfluous.

“Mr. Wissing announces a digital ticket, wipes his hands and goes back to his favorite topic, cars,” says an industry insider. The structures have hardly improved at all. “Locally, the associations boycott every change and thus also reforms that are decisive for the D-Ticket.”

Also read: The most important questions about the start of the 49-euro ticket

Traffic researcher Andreas Knie from the Berlin Science Center speaks of a “rotten and change-resistant system”. “On the one hand, funds are hardly used to improve public transport or make it more attractive,” explains the expert. On the other hand, the price of the D ticket could soon rise again because the financing is on shaky foundations. “This is due to the resistance of local providers. A turnaround in traffic can hardly be achieved with these managers,” criticized Knie.

Some in the industry fear regression. “In many associations, it is already said that services even have to be turned off because there is a lack of money,” warns Martin Becker-Rethmann, Transdev boss and member of the executive committee of the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV). This could entail new billions in claims on the federal government, or a thinning out of the offer in rural areas. “The responsible parties could save significantly more with structural reforms,” ​​says Becker-Rethmann.

From circles on the Deutsche Bahn supervisory board, some would even like the possibility of completely dissolving the public transport empire. A compulsion to save, so to speak. “If the offer of most transport associations is similar anyway, abolition would only be logical,” it says. Because the current financing and cost regulation of 49 euros per passenger will run until 2025. What will happen after that is completely unclear.

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Simple, but more expensive: What can the planned local transport ticket do?

Whether the monthly ticket for 49 euros pays off for regular customers depends on the location and route. If you only travel within your own city, you can expect a more or less large discount. In Frankfurt, the cheapest version of the subscription costs around 77 euros, in Berlin around 63 euros and in Paderborn only around 55 euros.

Things are clearer for people who commute from the outskirts to inner cities. For them, the planned offer is worthwhile in most cases. Because up until now, the following applied to the tariffs: the further, the more expensive. If you commute the 50 kilometers between Lüneburg and Hamburg, you pay at least around 187 euros a month for a subscription. If the unit price comes, then the following applies: the further, the greater the savings.

Many have gotten used to it: traffic jams every morning, ordeals on the main roads in the big city. A new, permanently cheap ticket for buses and trains could make some people ponder – and maybe make them switch. However: in most cases, traveling by bus or train is already cheaper than owning a car. Because this costs several hundred euros every month. Many drive cars anyway, the price is not the main argument for them.

The 9-euro ticket has made itself felt primarily in tourist destinations. Many took advantage of the opportunity for inexpensive excursions. That should change with a successor solution for 49 euros. Because for occasional day trips, especially with several travelers, the existing state train tickets or the nationwide Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket are often cheaper.

If buses or trains rarely stop nearby, even the cheapest ticket is of little use – as in many villages. At more than every third stop in Germany, according to calculations by the Deutsche Bahn subsidiary Ioki, you can’t even drive in one direction or the other once an hour. The ADAC motoring club is also warning that gaps in the public offering should continue to be closed.

According to the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV), there must not only be money for cheaper tickets, but also for more buses and trains. “Otherwise, services will have to be canceled extensively in the coming year, since they can no longer be financed with the available funds,” adds the Federal Association of Local Rail Transport.

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“The family component is missing,” criticizes Karl-Peter Naumann, honorary chairman of the Pro Bahn passenger association. In any case, free child transport like the 9-euro ticket has not yet been announced. That will discourage some from switching to buses and trains. “For drivers, however, it makes no difference in terms of costs whether they take their children with them.”

The ICE runs a good hour in the morning from Berlin to Wolfsburg, a connection that commuters also use. If they wanted to use the new ticket, they would have to spend more than three hours on local trains – not a good alternative. The same applies to long-distance trips through Germany, unless you have a lot of time. But if you have a lot of time, you can also secure saver price tickets for long-distance transport from 17.90 euros and travel with the ICE.

Nobody assumes that the alliances will then leave the field without a fight. Negotiations about financing pots, long-term contracts and special conditions have been going on in the background for months. What happens, for example, if passengers continue to travel locally by bus and train but buy their subscriptions in Hamburg or Berlin because the system works better there or because there is a bonus? What if there are no guests in some places because the associations lack the necessary incentives to invest in their buses?

These questions remain open. At the same time, there is a risk of less performance, more expensive prices, there is resistance to reforms, ineffective administration and a lack of offers: It is therefore hardly surprising that the Federal Association of Consumer Centers criticized a week before the ticket was launched that “transport companies and associations are posting important information on their websites for customers only insufficiently or not at all.”

In order to find a solution, Volker Wissing announces a new development and mobilization pact on his platform. Details are missing so far. It doesn’t really sound magical at all. The magic of departure seems to have vanished on Volker Wissing’s platform 5, section G. Then get in, Germany.

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