Germany to fight cost of living crisis with €9 monthly travel ticket

Ministers promise relief from rising fuel prices but opposition describes plan as a gimmick

Passengers can travel on local and regional routes anywhere in Germany for €9 a month. Getty
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Germany is offering public transport passes for a monthly subscription of €9 ($9.37) to ease the pain of rising fuel prices for motorists and encourage people to use trains and buses over the summer.

The tickets introduced by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government as part of a relief package for consumers and will be valid on local transport and regional trains anywhere in Germany but not on high-speed intercity routes.

They will go on sale next week as ministers urge people to save fuel in anticipation of a potential energy crunch next winter, with the threat of a Russian boycott hanging over Europe’s largest economy since the invasion of Ukraine.

Emergency energy plans were activated after Russia demanded payment for oil and gas in roubles, a condition which western powers are unwilling to meet, although Germany says gas is still arriving through pipelines from Russia.

Mr Scholz’s left-leaning coalition also touts the environmental benefits of public transport as part of a wider vision to transform the German economy and make it carbon neutral by 2045.

“The €9 ticket is the biggest experiment on public transport in German history,” a government spokesman said last week. “We have the chance to test whether prices are the decisive tool to persuade more people to use it.”

But opposition politicians have criticised the ticket as a gimmick of little use to rural voters and said it would prevent investment by transport companies whose finances were already strained by the coronavirus pandemic.

Germany has made preparations for potential energy shortages in the fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Getty

Christian Bernreiter, the conservative transport minister of the typically rebellious state of Bavaria, said unimpressed regional leaders could block the proposal in the upper house of Germany’s Parliament.

“If Berlin thinks it can get a round of applause for applying three-month sticking plaster at the expense of the states … it’s mightily deluded itself,” Mr Bernreiter told German media before an expected vote on May 20.

Voters in Germany’s largest state of North Rhine-Westphalia named rising prices as their top concern in exit polls on Sunday, in a regional election which delivered a setback to Mr Scholz’s party.

Ministers tout the €9 ticket, which will be available in June, July and August, as part of a package of relief measures including extra child benefits, a cut in fuel tax and a €300 energy bill rebate.

The government says there is enough energy for this summer but has told Germans that any power they can save will ease the pressure on fuel tanks next winter.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck has signed agreements to build liquefied gas terminals so that fossil fuel can be shipped from outside Russia but has called for Germany eventually to put its faith in solar and wind energy.

“Expanding renewable energy is not only an important driver of structural change. It is also a question of national and European security,” he said on Monday.

Updated: May 16, 2022, 2:36 PM
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