The German government has launched a new flat-rate public transport ticket that is being hailed as a “revolution” by policymakers. The “Deutschlandticket” covers unlimited access to Germany’s bus and metro systems, as well as local and regional trains, but excludes long-distance high-speed services, for a monthly fee of 49 euros ($54). However, the price point has raised doubts about the pass’s potential impact, with opposition politicians criticizing the expenditure and calling for more investment in the country’s creaking rail network.
Transport Minister Volker Wissing has defended the new initiative, calling it “the biggest public transport reform in German history.” The Association of German Transport Companies (VDV) expects 16 million people to take up the offer, and 750,000 tickets have already been sold. The federal government and Germany’s states have contributed a total of 3 billion euros towards the ticket’s financing to avoid adding to the national rail operator’s debt.
While the new ticket aims to encourage people to favour mass transit in the name of the environment, experts have warned that getting commuters to abandon their cars is not as simple as reducing the cost of subscriptions. Many who live far from the city centre do not have “rail infrastructure that could replace the car,” according to rail expert Christian Boettger from the Technical University Berlin.
Similar schemes have been launched elsewhere in Europe, such as the free local and regional train passes in Spain and the “climate ticket” in Austria, which covers virtually all public transport, including high-speed trains, for just over 1,000 euros a year.
Despite the challenges facing Germany’s public transport sector, the new Deutschlandticket represents a significant step towards a more environmentally friendly future for the country, and policymakers hope it will provide some relief for consumers amid soaring inflation.