Germany’s 9 euro summer rail pass experiment brought many benefits

After three months, the special offer in Germany of the 9-euro ticket for nationwide use on local and regional public transport made tourist highlights accessible at low cost and even achieved some carbon emissions reductions. Some news agencies note that 52 million tickets were purchased during the three month experiment. Kate Connolly discusses in an article on the Guardian website.

 

Germany’s €9 train tickets scheme ‘saved 1.8m tons of CO2 emissions’

Germany’s three-month experiment with €9 tickets for a month’s unlimited travel on regional train networks, trams and buses saved about 1.8m tons of CO2 emissions, it has been claimed.

Since its introduction on 1 June to cut fuel consumption and relieve a cost of living crisis, about 52m tickets have been sold, a fifth of these to people who did not ordinarily use public transport. The scheme is due to end on Wednesday.

The Association of German Transport Companies (VDV), which carried out the research, said the number of people who switched from cars to public transport as a result of the €9 ticket was behind the saving in emissions.

“The popularity of the €9 tickets had been unabated and the positive effect on it in tackling climate change is verifiable,” the VDV said. It said the emissions saved were equivalent to the powering of 350,000 homes, and a similar drop would be seen over the period of a year if Germany introduced a speed limit on its motorways. A typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 tons of carbon a year.

Olaf Scholz, the chancellor, who has come under fire for what some have interpreted as a nonchalant attitude towards Germany’s fuel price surge and steep rise in the cost of living in recent months, has lapped up praise for the scheme, calling the €9 ticket “our best idea yet”.

The scheme is also believed to have helped keep inflation, currently at about 8%, slightly lower than it otherwise would have been.

Not only did passengers praise the cheapness of the scheme, they revelled in its simplicity, as it cut through swathes of complication ranging from myriad transport zones to ticket categories that differ greatly from region to region.

Just over 37% of people who bought the ticket used it to get to work, 50% used it for everyday journeys such as to go shopping or visit the doctor, 40% used it to visit people, and 33% used it for day trips.

“I’ve travelled from Bavaria in the south to Rostock in the north and seen places I might never otherwise have bothered to visit,” Ronald Schenck, 80, told a regional broadcaster. “It’s saved me a fortune and I’ve had a lot of fun.”

The government and regional administrations are under huge pressure to continue the ticket in some form. The expectation is that any replacement would be priced at least six times higher, but surveys show enthusiasm for such a scheme is high.

According to Germany’s federal environment agency, the environmental damage resulting from one ton of CO2 emissions is worth about €180. This calculation will be used as an argument as to why the government should continue to subsidise a cheap public transport scheme in future, campaigners have said, after some officials said it was too expensive to continue it at a time of soaring living costs.

But critics have cited overcrowded trains, and passengers often not being able to bring bikes onboard, as reasons not to repeat the scheme. There are also concerns that if cheap tickets continue there will be less money available to boost transport networks, which are particularly poor in rural areas, with interconnectivity between independent services sometimes non-existent. Ticket sales in rural areas were the lowest, which it is thought owed to the poor availability of public transport there.

VDV carried out about 6,000 interviews a week – in total, about 78,000 – with passengers across the country, in conjunction with the national rail carrier Deutsche Bahn and the marketing research organisations Forsa and RC Research.

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