Germany cuts fares for long-distance rail travel, to attract more passengers away from cars/planes, in response to climate crisis
Date added: January 3, 2020
Fares for long-distance rail travel in Germany have dropped for the first time in 17 years, as climate protection measures aimed at making train travel more attractive came into effect in 2020. Travellers taking trips of more than 50km (31 miles) on Deutsche Bahn’s Intercity Express trains will have fare decreases of 10%. The company is also cutting prices on special offers and additional services, such as transporting bicycles. The trend in Germany stands in contrast to the situation in the UK, where millions of commuters face a 2.7% rise in ticket prices from 2nd January. The cheaper rail tickets are due to Deutsche Bahn passing on to customers the German government’s cut in VAT on rail travel, from 19% to 7%. The UK does not charge VAT on rail fares. Deutsche Bahn said it hoped the price drop would bring in another 5 million passengers per year. Not all commuters in Germany will get cheaper fares in 2020. Fares for short-distance travel and public transport in regions such as Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, Brandenburg and the Rhineland are set to increase. In the UK there are calls for a simpler ticketing system, encouraging more people to get lower fares and use trains more, and cars less.
Fares for long-distance rail travel in Germany have dropped for the first time in 17 years, as climate protection measures aimed at making train travel more attractive came into effect with the new year.
Travellers taking trips of more than 50km (31 miles) on Deutsche Bahn’s Intercity Express trains can look forward to fare decreases of 10%.
The company is also cutting prices on special offers and additional services, such as transporting bicycles.
The trend in Germany stands in contrast to the situation in the UK, where millions of commuters face a 2.7% rise in ticket prices from 2 January.
Germany’s main provider of rail services is a private company in which the state is the single shareholder. Plans to sell off up to 49.9% of the company to private providers were abandoned with the onset of the 2007-08 financial crisis.
Not all commuters in Germany will get cheaper fares in 2020. Fares for short-distance travel and public transport in regions such as Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, Brandenburg and the Rhineland are set to increase, the news agency dpa reported this week.
Fares for regional trains in the Bonn area are due to rise by 2.5%, while people in Berlin and Brandenburg face a 3.3% increase in the cost of tickets for bus, tram and subway travel. Public transport providers say the fare increases are due to rising wages and higher prices of diesel and electricity and were agreed before the government passed its climate protection measures.
The Green party has proposed to make rail travel in Germany so attractive over the coming decades that passengers turn their back on domestic flights.
More trains, reliable timetables and cheaper tickets: this is the Green answer to growing air traffic in Germany.
“By 2035 we want to make domestic flights obsolete as far as possible,” said the Green parliamentary group in a paper seen by the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
According to the environmentally friendly party, which is riding high in the polls after a stunning result in the European elections, three billion euros should be injected into the country’s railway network annually in order to expand and speed up the rail system.
The goal must be to reduce the travel time between as many places as possible in Germany and neighbouring countries to “a maximum of four hours”, the Greens said. The authors singled out the routes from Cologne and Düsseldorf to Berlin, Hamburg or Munich as well as the connection between Frankfurt and Berlin.
In many places, bottlenecks would have to be eliminated quickly. In addition, more trains are needed in the morning and evening rush hours to make train travel more attractive to commuters as well.
However, this also requires extremely punctual trains and a high speed broadband connection onboard.
The radical proposal could prove enticing to voters in Germany, many of whom may have already given their vote to the Greens in the European parliamentary elections in May or state elections.
More tax on flying, less on train travelling
According to the Federal Statistical Office, 23.5 million domestic passengers travelled by plane in Germany last year. In 2017 the figure was 23.7 million, a drop of 0.8 per cent.
A plane flying near Frankfurt during a sunset. Photo: DPA
The paper also provides for a “step-by-step introduction of the Kerosene tax for domestic flights”. This should gradually align with the tax rate on petrol which currently stands at 65 cents per litre, the party argues.
Yet for trains, the VAT should be reduced from 19 to seven percent. The Greens also want to lower route prices and the electricity tax.
Meanwhile, the party is also thinking about how to improve trains to make people think twice about taking longer or international flights.
They proposed a “European night train network” that they hope would attract more passengers to the railways.
“It is unacceptable that the airplane, as the most climate-damaging mode of transport, is still being subsidized with billions, while the environmentally friendly railway is chronically underfinanced,” said Daniela Wagner, one of the authors of the paper.
Prices must also reflect the ecological truth in air transport, they said. “At the same time, the railways must be strengthened by building and expanding new routes and by making them reliable, punctual and affordable,” the paper said.
The topic also played a huge role in the recent European parliamentary elections which saw the Greens surge to second place in Germany, behind Angela Merkel’s party, the centre-right CDU which suffered heavy losses.
OVERHAUL TRAIN FARE SYSTEM TO CUT CARBON EMISSIONS, SAY OPERATORS
Fares that are easier to understand, a better range of ‘walk-up’ fares and season tickets that are suited to flexible working could incentivise people to travel
By Cathy Adams @Cathman (The Independent)
1 October 2019
Rail operators are calling for the current train fare system to be overturned in a bid to cut carbon emissions.
According to new analysis by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) and KPMG, reforming train fares could encourage an extra 300 million people to travel on UK railways over the next decade.
RDG, which represents UK train companies and Network Rail, said that an easier fares system could help cut carbon emissions by 1.2 million tonnes over the next 10 years.
It’s the equivalent of removing 61,000 cars, or one in three cars from the M1.
Fares that are easier to understand, a better range of “walk-up” fares and season tickets that are suited to flexible working could incentivise people to travel, the RDG said.
The rail industry is calling on the government to reform the current “rigid” system of rail fares, which was created in the 1990s and has “failed to keep pace with how people work and travel today”.
According to RDG there are now more than 50 million fares available for travel. This multitude of options means travellers can’t ensure they’re getting the best deal.
A trial for simpler rail fares will begin on LNER, which runs services on the East Coast mainline between London, north east England and Scotland, in 2020.
“More people than ever want to go green when it comes to how they travel,” said Jacqueline Starr, chief operating officer at the Rail Delivery Group.
“Our plans for easier fares would encourage more people to ditch dirty traffic jams in favour of cleaner, greener trains and it’s time the government committed to wholesale reform of the outdated regulations that make rail fares so complicated.”
“The climate crisis will be solved, in part, by getting people out of their cars and using public transport such as trains,” said Mike Childs, head of science at Friends of the Earth.
“Any suggestions to help with this have got to be explored, and this includes reforming rail fares to give passengers the confidence they are getting the best price for their ticket.
“Right now, government policy means driving a car is cheap and rail fares keep getting more and more expensive. Making fares cheaper and fairer is one of the ways to make travel by rail more appealing and more accessible.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “The Transport Secretary wants the trains to run on time and for them to provide great value for commuters. Rail is also one of the greenest ways to travel, and we are committed to modernising our trains and infrastructure to deliver cleaner journeys.
“Rail passengers can already benefit from cheaper advanced fares and savings from railcards, but the rail industry can do much more. That is why we are taking action to simplify fares, including backing LNER’s trial of single-leg fares next year to give passengers more confidence they are buying the correct ticket for their needs.
“The forthcoming Williams Review White Paper will also make wide-ranging proposals to modernise the fares system, bringing the railway in line with what passengers expect in the 21st century.”