Germany’s transport subsidy has put so many people on the train… that it has died of success

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June 2022. Traveling by train in Germany has a price: nine euros a month. The decision has an obvious significant impact: train travel is skyrocketing and the measure has everything to be a success. Now that August is ending and state aid is ending, the reading is beginning to be different. In Spain, where travel will be free on some trains from September 1, we look with interest at the conclusions.

Measure. Pressed by a general rise in fuel prices and with Europe pressing to reduce its energy dependence, the German government saw in the train an old ally to reduce the consumption of diesel and gasoline. The goal is to relieve families of transportation expenses with a monthly bonus of nine euros to travel throughout Germany.

crowded platforms. The measure had an immediate impact that was reflected in crowded platforms. According to the German government, up to 30 million people have taken advantage of the government offer. Olaf Scholz, German Chancellor, has defined the idea as “one of the best we’ve ever had”.

The massive acceptance of the monthly subscription is demonstrated by the graph in the following tweet. The demand for trains has multiplied, partly because of their low price and partly because of the simplicity of the service, as Germany has a reputation for being a complex place to buy tickets. One way or another, only in July there was a 42% more trips than in the same month of 2019.

and the same cars. In the previous tweet, mobility expert Prabin Joel Jones expressed his hope that the increase in train travel would lead to a decrease in car travel, a much more polluting means of transport. Now, we know that it is not, that the significant growth in train travel only reflects additional demand.

Financial Times displays the result of the measurement in a graph. While trains have skyrocketed, car travel has maintained its usual pace. That is, there has been no user transfer from one medium to another. Or at least it has not happened in a significant way, which questions the success of the measure.

Not everyone thinks the same. At the same time, the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV) points to the measure as very successful. It ensures that 52 million train tickets have been sold and that one in ten people has changed at least one of their daily trips by car for the use of this means of transport. The figure reaches 17% if any means of transport is taken into account.

In the economic newspaper they also collect statements from a young man who claimed to have traveled more than 11,000 kilometers during the three months that the measure lasted, personifying one of the many voices that demand the extension of this aid in the coming months. And that also reflects the balance game that the German government has to face now.

“It’s not sustainable”. This is what the German finance minister, Christian Lindner, has replied to the aforementioned young man. “Have you traveled more than 11,000 kilometers for 27 euros? That is not sustainable,” they collect in the Financial Times. According to the minister’s calculations, keeping the measure in force for a whole year would cost 14,000 million euros to the public coffers, almost half of the 30,000 million euros of urgent aid that was contemplated as a framework to lower the price of trains.

According to Lindner, those millions could be spent on improving Germany’s dense rail network. a few words that also holds Lars Felda professor at the University of Freiburg and close to Minister Lindner’s politics: “The nine-euro note has caused additional trips and has hardly taken motorists off the road. Local passenger transport overloaded and there were more delays. In clear words: an expensive measure, and a generator of many problems.”

We can now request subscriptions to travel for free by train: how to do it and what trains are available

Go back. On the other side, Stefan Gelbhaar, transport spokesman for the Green Party, assured that the measure relieved traffic in some cities and showed that “when the offer and the price are correct, people switch to public transport”. The problem now is going back for all those people who have used the train.

The question remains of knowing how many passengers the train will drag after the experiment. Travelers are asking for the aid to be extended, the Association of German Transport Companies proposes a single ticket of 69 euros per month and environmentalists are betting on tickets of 29 euros to travel on regional trains and a national ticket of 49 euros for all of Germany . There is fear that, once the subsidy has passed, the trains will not return to their usual price and that, on the contrary, the prices they already had in May will increase even more.

Photo | Alexander Zykov

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June 2022. Traveling by train in Germany has a price: nine euros a month. The decision has an obvious significant…

June 2022. Traveling by train in Germany has a price: nine euros a month. The decision has an obvious significant…

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