Berlin At a digital special conference of transport ministers, the transport ministers of the federal and state governments were unable to agree on a successor regulation for a local transport ticket that is valid throughout Germany.
This was stated by both Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) and the chair of the Transport Ministers’ Conference, Bremen Senator Maike Schaefer (Greens), on Monday afternoon.
Instead, the federal and state governments have decided to initially set up a high-level working group at state secretary level. These should create model calculations and thus determine a possible tariff, as it was said.
At the next regular conference of transport ministers, on October 12th and 13th, the working group is to submit a joint proposal. It is not certain whether a new discount tariff will be offered as early as January 1, 2023, as Federal Minister Wissing hopes. “It’s an ambitious goal,” he said.
Wissing explained that with the decision of the conference of transport ministers, everyone “came a big step closer to the goal”. The goal is a “simple local transport in the area”. Tariff structures are too complex. He relies on digitization to network transport services and “modernize our country”.
States contradict Federal Minister Wissing
However, Wissing received opposition. “Warm words are no longer enough for us,” said State Minister Schaefer after the meeting. The countries are ready to participate constructively. The nine-euro ticket was a success. People’s expectations are “great”.
However, it is “an overall task,” as she said. “We need more money in the system,” she clarified. Federal funds for local transport were “not even enough to maintain the status quo”. “Additional money” is required for the current local transport and for a connecting ticket.
The Saarland Transport Minister Petra Berg (SPD) made it clear that the ticket was only “the freestyle”. The federal states are “disappointed” by Minister Wissing, who has not promised more money. It doesn’t make sense if tickets are cheap but don’t run trains.
Wissing, on the other hand, referred to the “mobility pact” that he wanted to discuss and conclude with the federal states in order to organize modern local transport. There are still open questions about this. Before that, he could not promise more money. “For me, the decision is clear today: There should be a follow-up ticket,” said Wissing.
The countries see this differently. In the last few years, the transport ministers have asked the federal government six times to transfer more money, explained Brandenburg State Minister Guido Beermann (CDU).
Most recently, the federal states had demanded an extra 1.65 billion euros for local transport for both 2022 and 2023. Only then are they willing to participate in a follow-up arrangement for the nine-euro ticket. It was said that the prime ministers should now also consult with Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) at the next prime ministers’ conference. “We are hoping for a sign from the Prime Minister,” said Schaefer.
The countries are demanding the money to compensate for the increased energy, construction and personnel costs in local transport and to modernize their local transport. Senator Schaefer also refers to “reduced income due to the corona pandemic”.
Since the local municipal utilities are under massive pressure in view of the electricity and gas prices, they fail to finance local transport. Some transport companies and associations have already announced that they will raise ticket prices and, if necessary, also offer fewer bus and train services.
The federal government must finance local transport
The federal budget draft for 2023, on the other hand, does not provide for the required increase in funds, nor does the current budget. This has already caused a lot of frustration among the federal states. “That’s definitely not enough,” said Beermann. “It cannot be that the horse is bridled from behind.” The federal states are not in a position “to provide 1.5 billion euros on the side”. The federal government must “fulfill its duty”.
For years, the federal and state governments have been arguing about who is responsible for local transport. According to the Basic Law, the states are “entitled to an amount from federal tax revenue” to organize local transport. Among other things, they are responsible for tendering local transport services and developing tariffs.
However, in the past the federal states have not used the so-called regionalization funds exclusively for local transport, so that the federal government has increasingly rejected calls for greater financial aid.
The federal government transfers almost ten billion euros to the federal states for local transport, and the sum increases by 1.8 percent every year. But since buses and trains are supposed to double their passenger numbers by 2030, according to the argument of the federal states, there is not enough money in front and behind. This only works with high-quality local transport, argue the countries, such as a better offer and electrified buses. This costs more money accordingly.
The nine-euro ticket was decided by the traffic light coalition in Berlin at the end of March in order to relieve people not only of the tank discount but also in local transport. After initial protests from the industry and the federal states, the transport companies introduced the ticket.
According to the Association of Transport Companies, 52 million units were sold from June to August. The discount campaign cost the federal government 2.5 billion euros, which was used to compensate for the companies’ loss of income. With three billion euros for one year, the federal and state governments hope to be able to offer a 49-euro ticket.
Federal Minister Wissing had initially rejected a successor plan. In the meantime, however, the federal government has agreed, as part of a further relief package, to provide 1.5 billion euros for a successor solution in the coming year, if the federal states contribute at least the same amount.