Deutschlandticket a success, but who pays?
The costs of the 49-euro Deutschlandticket will be higher than forecasted, the Association of German Transport Companies VDV suspects. Where will the bill end up?
The Deutschland, or D-ticket, was introduced on May 1 this year and is a subscription valid for public regional and local transport buses and trains throughout Germany, long-distance trains and private providers such as FlixTrain excluded. It follows up the 9-euro ticket, which was offered on the initiative of the German federal government in the summer months of 2022, and sold 52 million times. Just like its predecessor, the D-ticket is already a success. In the first half of 2023. 10 per cent more passengers traveled on regular bus and train services in Germany than in the same period last year, to which the Deutschlandticket contributed, according to the German Federal Statistical Office.
The funding of the ticket has been a source of contention, however. The implementation of the Deutschlandticket is the responsibility of the federal states. To support them in this, the federal government has promised the states 1.5 billion euros annually to offset losses from 2023 – the states contribute the same amount. These funds are made available to the states through the Regionalisation Act. The goal of the federal government is to offer the ticket permanently, but the introduction period for the D-Ticket is initially planned for two years. For the years 2023 to 2025 – a total of 4.5 billion euros is thus reserved. However, calculations from the transport industry association VDV assumes significant additional costs for the Deutschlandticket next year. It forecasts a need for subsidies of over one billion euros more already by 2024 – a total of 4.09 billion.
End of D-ticket looming without budget
The VDV in a report cites an increase in ticket prices and the acquisition of new users as potential measures to reduce the higher subsidy requirement, reported broadcaster Tagesschau. The association also warns against the end of the Germany ticket. Without “sufficient budgetary provisions or an obligation to make additional contributions”, it would not be possible for companies to continue issuing and recognising the ticket.
“The federal and state governments must not only discuss opposing positions by the end of September, but also present a solution for covering the costs”, VDV Managing Director Oliver Wolff says in a statement. “It’s like in normal life, whoever orders a service or product has to pay for it. The transport industry wants to be treated so simply and fairly.”
Transport associations should save money
In case the costs of the Deutschlandticket rise above the 1.5 billion agreed, the Federal government has committed to compensate for half, but only in the first year. Since then, Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing declared that the federal subsidy should not be increased to cover possible additional costs. Instead, the system of local transport associations, which Germany knows more than 60 of, should be reorganised and made more efficient.
“I recommend that the states now boldly move forward and effectively reorganise the patchwork of transport associations”, said Wissing. “Savings must now be achieved so that public transport offers a better offering and at the same time unnecessary costs are saved. We have two billion euros in sales costs for public transport tickets alone. That has to change”, said the minister to Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.
“Not a political toy”
What the VDV would like to see is a clear picture of how the D-ticket will be financed in the coming years. Managing Director Wolff: “The current political statements are highly unwise from a business perspective. We actually need a clear commitment from the federal and state governments by October 1st as to how the entire costs of the industry will be financed in the coming year as part of the Deutschlandticket. If such a decision is not made, the transport companies and associations will not be able to present reliable planning for 2024.”
According to Wolff, this leads to “considerable risks” that politicians must also take seriously. “The Deutschlandticket is not a political toy, but above all a tariff product in the interests of citizens, who can expect reliability, as can the transport companies and associations that provide the services.” The VDV calls attention to the fact that the transport industry itself will also have to shoulder additional costs. Among other things, this would include sales, digitalisation and customer information, especially in the introduction and ramp-up phase of the D-ticket, and definitely also in the coming year. “So far there can be no question of any savings from the Deutschlandticket”, says Wolff.
The federal and state transport ministers have already agreed that there should be dynamisation of the 49-euro price in the form of automatic inflation compensation from 2024. But with the financing picture unclear, it is therefore deemed unlikely that the price will remain in the same range. The Pro Bahn passenger association expects that the ticket will cost closer to 59 or 69 euros in the future.