I never intended to go to Brühl. I wasn’t even going to go sightseeing in Germany. I had an overnight connecting flight via Düsseldorf and planned to work at the hotel and then walk around the city.
But then, on the advice of a Dusseldorf airport employee, I changed my mind. I was about to buy a train ticket to the city – 3 euros – when he offered me the option for 9 euros (about $9). “You could go somewhere,” he said.
The writer, on a whim, went to Augustusburg Castle in Brühl.
Rick Neves/Adobe Stock
So I bought it, left my things at the hotel and immediately returned to the station. The plan was to go to Cologne, just to see its cathedral – why not when it’s free? But then I remembered that almost 100 years ago my family lived nearby, in Brühl. So, after half an hour on the train, instead of leaving the Cologne station, I changed platforms and got on another one. In about 15 minutes I was in Brühl. It was a completely spontaneous trip that allowed me to see my family’s old house.
A trip from Düsseldorf to Brühl would have cost 9 euros one way – for this price I got a round trip ticket and two flights from the airport instead of the “real” 24 euros. But it wasn’t just about saving €15 – for me, the €9 ticket gave me an idea of what Germany had to offer. Even in less than a day. Now I’m looking forward to returning. One rococo palace is not enough.
I’m not alone. Germany’s decision this summer to offer unlimited regional travel for €9 a month, ending in a week from today, August 31st, has been a resounding success.
According to the VDV, the Association of German Carriers, around 60 million tickets had been sold by early August, in other words, for June and July.
This includes 10 million subscribers per month who automatically received a ticket, 21 million tickets for June and 17 million for July.
“It made getting around easier and saved us the hassle of figuring out which ticket to buy. It saved us a lot of money even in the 11 days we spent in the country,” he says.
Better air quality
While the €9 ticket was on sale, air quality in Germany improved by 6%.
Christoph Soder/dpa/picture Alliance/Getty Images
Author Niklas Gol told CNN that the effect was “most pronounced in metropolitan areas and areas with a developed public transport network.” And he said it was a good omen for the future.
“Our papers confirm that a public transport subsidy such as a €9 ticket, at least in the short term, can help promote greener vehicles and reduce air pollution.”
And Germany itself, having seen its forecasts of selling 30 million tickets a month, is now considering a ticket for 69 euros a month.
The ticket has been heavily subsidized, but another unlimited travel ticket can be purchased which costs more.
Arne Dedert/dpa/picture Alliance/Getty Images
This would be equivalent to 824 euros per year – less than the 1,095 euro annual climate in Austria, which allows public transport to be used throughout the year.
Oliver Wolf, CEO of VDV, says the ‘momentum’ of the €9 ticket has ‘created a situation we can’t go back to’.
In a statement, he wrote that the €9 price had only been available for three months and suggested introducing a new €69 monthly ticket.
“Government-commissioned market research … and other findings paint a clear picture of the possibilities and limitations of a nationwide climate ticket for public transport as a connectivity solution,” he said.
“We offer a nationwide ÖPNV-Klimaticket (public transport climate ticket) for €69 per month as a one-way second class entitlement.”
A spokesman for Germany’s Digital and Transport Ministry told CNN that the ticket was a “relief measure” due to rising energy and fuel prices. “The coalition must decide to what extent such assistance measures will now be continued. The issue of funding will be decisive,” they said.
They added that Volker Wissing, Federal Minister for Digitalization and Transport, set up a working group when he took office in December 2021 “to work together on an expansion and modernization pact to be discussed at the transport ministers’ conference in the fall.”
“This gives us the opportunity to make public transport much more convenient and attractive for all citizens,” they said.
Niklas Gol, author of an article on air pollution, says that in the long run the size of the subsidy will need to be calculated.
Crowded trains but fewer tourists
The trains were often crowded as people rushed to enjoy the almost free transport.
Henning Kaiser/dpa/picture Alliance/Getty Images
The €9 ticket wasn’t always fun. Travelers complain about overcrowded trains during rush hours, and Gainanov often encountered this. “The transport network has not been able to keep up with demand during an already busy summer period,” he says.
“Every train we rode was busy, but on popular day trip destinations, the trains were nearly full and there were no empty seats.
“We literally couldn’t get on one train — it was one in which the first four cars go to one place, and the last four go to another. We had to board an empty train car and change our destination as a result. “
“Many services on the DB network were running with delays due to lack of staff. The solution for me would be to have something similar, but perhaps outside of the busy summer months.”
Even I had a taster for one day of use. On the way back from Brühl at rush hour via Cologne, two guards stood at the top of the stairs leading to the platform advising people where to stand. The train was so packed that some of the passengers, unable to stand, sat in first class.
Whether these extra travelers were locals, local tourists, or foreign visitors drawn in by cheap public transport in the summer when air chaos reigns and car rental prices are sky-high remains to be seen.
“While Covid-19 is still around, demand is certainly on the rise,” said Parik Laxminarayan, CEO of Enchanting Travels and USTO, who predicts numbers will be “equal or higher” in 2023 than in 2019. year.
“While measures such as the €9 ticket have undoubtedly led to more travel within Germany, they have not affected our business. A cheap public transport ticket might be good for locals, but it’s not. This is a great deal for a US guest buying a private trip to Europe,” he said.
Wherever those extra visitors come from, Wolf says the €69 price increase is the golden ratio — affordable enough to convince drivers to give up their cars, but not so cheap that millions of random people (like me) clog trains with sidings. . – minute trips. According to him, this scheme will cost about 2 billion euros.
Falkenlust Castle in Brühl unexpectedly pleased the CNN author.
Boris Breitman/Adobe Stock
And while he hoped the new scheme could be in place by September 1, when the current one ends, nothing has been announced yet, and a spokesman for the Airborne Forces said we no longer have time to roll out the new ticket by September.
So will Germany join Austria and introduce climate ticket? There is no confirmation yet.
But with the climate crisis intensifying and Europe’s rivers running dry this summer, the success of the €9 ticket will no doubt be in the spotlight of policy makers this fall.