Berlin. Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) is open to extending the nine-euro monthly ticket for local transport, at least for a short time. “It is now up to the coalition to decide whether the nine-euro ticket can be continued in a modified form,” a spokesman told the Handelsblatt.
Municipal representatives, states, the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV) and environmental organizations had already called for a successor plan. The two FDPMinisters in the federal government, Finance Minister Christian Lindner and Transport Minister Wissing, however, refused. Wissing had insisted on first determining the effects of the ticket.
The evaluation of the market research carried out by the transport companies should be available in mid-November. In addition, Wissing calls for reforms in the system, which he himself describes as “crusty and non-transparent”.
The measure, which is intended to relieve people from June to the end of August in addition to the tank discount, will cost the federal government 2.5 billion euros. He transfers the money to the federal states, which use it to compensate for the reduced income from local transport.
As a condition for the short-term extension, Wissing’s spokesman explained: “One of the decisive factors for a possible successor model will be the willingness of the federal states to participate substantially in the financing of such a model.”
At the end of August, the nine-euro ticket, which according to the VDV has been sold more than 20 million times since it was launched, ends with the summer holidays in many federal states. People can use it for a month in local transport, but above all in all regional trains and thus right across Germanydrive.
But why is there a discussion about the ticket? How does public transport work in Germany? Eight questions, eight answers:
Who is responsible for public transport?
Local transport is a matter for the federal states – and thus also for the municipalities.
How much money goes into local transport – and where does it come from?
The federal states define in local transport laws what public transport should do. It also regulates what the state finances, for example for free school tickets.
The municipalities conclude transport contracts with municipal and private transport companies. If the income from fares and subsidies is not sufficient, they compensate for the company’s losses.
Even if the federal government is not responsible: it transfers most of the money to the federal states – more than ten billion euros flow to the federal states via the regionalization law – without them having to comprehensively prove what they are using the money for. The federal government will also pay out the 2.5 billion euros for the nine-euro ticket in this way. He also massively supports his own company, die Deutsche Bahn AG and thus also the regional subsidiary DB Regio.
He is also involved in expensive municipal infrastructure projects, such as the second main S-Bahn line currently under discussion in Munich. He has one billion euros available annually through the Municipal Transport Financing Act. On top of that, local transport companies also pay less sales, energy and vehicle tax.
On behalf of the German Bundestag, the auditors from Ernst & Young (EY) examined the situation in local transport and presented a comprehensive “cost recovery report” a year ago. The result: In 2018 alone, a total of almost 20 billion euros was collected, with which taxpayers are already subsidizing local transport.
Accordingly, not too much money flows into quality: in 2018 it was 3.7 billion euros and thus not even every fifth euro. Since the corona pandemic and the nine-euro ticket, the federal government has invested even more in local transport in the federal states and municipalities.
What does ticket revenue contribute?
The municipal transport companies took in 5.9 billion euros from ticket sales – not including “other income” and public sector services. For the railways it was three billion and for the private bus companies 1.6 billion euros. Municipal companies covered 50.4 percent of their costs with tickets alone, private companies 49.4 percent and regional railways 28.9 percent.
What do people use for public transport?
The railways transport most people with their regional transport. Measured in so-called passenger kilometers, according to EY, it was 55 million (2018), the municipal transport companies came to almost 42 million, private bus companies to less than 15 million.
Which means of transport is the cheapest?
When it comes to costs, the order is reversed: the private bus companies have the best cost structure. For example, they bought their energy more than a third cheaper than municipal companies, had significantly lower capital costs and also lower personnel costs.
The most unfavorable is the cost structure in the railways such as the regional subsidiary Deutsche Bahn AG (DB Regional). Here the costs were significantly higher in all positions. On top of that, railroads still have to pay to use rails. All of that comes from EY’s research, which is based on fiscal years 2014, 2016, and 2018.
Even if EY did not collect all the figures itself and relies largely on data from the VDV and the Federal Statistical Office, it has always been the same as it is today: Local transport does not cover its costs by a long shot.
This applies above all to the municipal transport companies, whose losses are the greatest. The bus companies and the railways still receive a lot of money from the public sector if they operate certain routes, even if they are not particularly used, for example in rural areas.
How do the countries organize their local transport?
Minister Wissing complains about the large number of tariff areas in local transport. “When the complicated fare zones disappear and the tickets are valid nationwide, public transport will be used much more,” he is certain. Tariff zones arise because each municipality is responsible for its local transport and sets the tariffs accordingly. They can join forces with others.
According to the EY survey, there are around 22 such associations in Baden-Württemberg, 35 in Bavaria, while Berlin and Brandenburg form an association. Hesse is limited to two regional transport associations, as is Rhineland-Palatinate. Wissing had taken care of that as state minister.
In principle, the districts and independent cities in the federal states organize bus routes on their own. Rarely, as in Saxony-Anhalt, does the state plan important lines. The city state of Bremen organizes local transport with the surrounding districts of Lower Saxony via a special-purpose association; Hamburg has a transport association with surrounding districts in Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony.
There are usually large cooperation areas for regional rail transport, around three in the most populous federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The small Saarland maintains a special-purpose association, in Saxony there are five.