The preparatory work has been largely completed. Pre-sales at some transport companies are due to start next week; at the VVS in Stuttgart, the ticket has already been available since May 13. As part of a package of concessions passed in response to rising energy prices, the federal government has decided to offer monthly tickets for 9 euros in June, July and August. The aim of these measures is not only to support people who use public transport in the face of a general rise in the cost of living. It is also about attracting new customers.
Länder demand more money from federal government
On Thursday, the Bundestag is expected to pass a relevant law that will also regulate funding through the so-called Regionalisierungsmittel. These are funds that the federal government makes available to the states each year to finance regional passenger rail services. On Tuesday, the transport committee voted in favor of the bill – against the votes of AfD and CDU/CSU MPs.
However, it is still unclear whether the entire initiative will come to fruition. A decision on the matter will be made in the Bundesrat on Friday. Public pressure is high, but it is by no means certain that a majority will be achieved. The states are demanding more money from the federal government. The bill provides for 2.5 billion euros to cover the difference in price. Another 1.2 billion euros is to flow as part of a shield that compensates companies offering local public passenger transport services for revenue losses resulting from the coronavirus pandemic and rising energy costs.
Kretschmann: negotiations “will certainly continue to the very end”
The federal states argue that the coalition agreement also promised funding for structural changes in local transport. Winfried Kretschmann (Greens), prime minister of Baden-Württemberg, said Tuesday that the ticket does not solve basic problems with local public transport. The state’s government fears that unless more money is earmarked, there could be significant increases in public transport fares after a period of super-favorable prices during the summer. Saxony is also demanding changes to the project. So it is unknown how the representatives of these states will vote. According to Kretschmann, negotiations “will certainly continue until the very end.”
However, once the bill has been approved by the transport committee, virtually nothing more can be done with it. Bernd Reuther, the FDP’s spokesman for transport policy, defends the €9 ticket subsidies agreed upon so far. In his view, an increase in the funds that the federal government makes available to the states each year to finance regional rail passenger services will make it possible to finance and implement the cheaper ticket project. The goal must now be to relieve the burden on citizens. His SPD colleague Dorothee Martin also hopes that this part of the relief package can come into effect quickly and that “all the states are aware of their great responsibility.”
Is there a chance for a compromise?
It is true, however, that the ruling coalition has pledged to significantly strengthen local public transport with climate protection in mind. Social Democrat Martin assured that there will be discussions with the federal states about structural changes and funding for regional public transport, but “not in connection with the current package of concessions”.
This kind of wording may be found after Friday’s Bundesrat meeting in the minutes of the federal government, which are currently being prepared. In it, the ruling coalition might agree to allocate more money for local transport in the 2023 budget. The first draft of the budget will be debated in September.
The Left Party believes that the €9 ticket should remain in effect until the end of the year. Politician Bernd Riexinger said the demand for tickets already shows “how much the price reduction for using public transport encourages people to switch from private cars to buses and trains.”