My Mastodon and Twitter feeds have been full of people asking about how Germany’s new 49 Euro public transport ticket (also known as Deutschlandticket) is going to work. So here in this post I will try to give answers to all the frequently asked questions about the ticket! All of this is correct as of 26th December 2022 – as and when we know more I will update the post accordingly.
What is the 49 Euro Ticket?
It is a flat rate public transport ticket – for 49 Euro you can travel on all local and regional buses, trams, metros, S-Bahn and regional trains for 1 calendar month in the whole of Germany.
When will it be available?
Earliest 1st April 2023. At the moment some local public transport authorities have set up pre-ordering systems, but given the start date is not final then treat these with care!
Is 49 Euro for this a good deal?
Yes. A monthly public transport ticket for some individual cities has until now cost more than 100 Euro, and a pass for regional trains between two cities can be over 200 Euro per month (some examples from Nordrhein Westfalen here). So this reduces the costs for regular commuters pretty much everywhere. However the ticket is a lot more expensive than the experimental 9 Euro Ticket that was available for three months in the summer of 2022 – and that has led to some critique of the new ticket not being as cheap as had been hoped – this excellent piece in Die Zeit explains that issue in more depth. It is assumed the ticket will cost 49 Euro per month for at least the first two years, and then the price could increase.
Will it replace all existing other monthly tickets?
Not all of them, no – especially the tickets that are less than 49 Euro per month, but which can only be used in a narrower geographic area. There is also a discussion about how to make a version of the ticket for low earners and for students, but that has not yet been resolved. Some regional variation is possible.
As the 49 Euro Ticket is a permanent change we can expect it to entirely replace some other monthly and yearly passes that have been available until now. In this respect it is different to the 9 Euro Ticket where things reverted after the experiment ended.
Whether there is some sort of automatic switch to the 49 Euro Ticket for those with other monthly or yearly passes is also unknown – MVV (the Verkehrsverbund in München) simply says holders of existing passes will be informed when things change, but other Verbunde might do it differently.
Will the ticket only be available as a subscription?
That is the intention, although the precise details are still being finalised. It looks likely you will have to sign up for a rolling monthly subscription, and then this can also be cancelled in any given month. We do not know if there would be any charge to end the subscription (Transdev’s FAQ suggests their would be a 30 Euro charge, this in Merkur indicates the opposite).
What will the ticket literally be like?
We do not know for sure, other than that the Transport Minister Wissing has continually emphasised that the ticket must be “digital” – so it is fair to assume that app-based tickets will be available, and probably also in areas (such as Berlin-Brandenburg VBB) where yearly subscriptions have not been available in apps until now. Wissing has also talked about putting the tickets on existing chip card smartcard systems (see this in Handelsblatt) and Stadtwerke Neuss has a little more detail here. However not all parts of Germany have chip card ticketing systems, and not every passenger has a compatible mobile phone for an app based ticket, and Wissing has emphasised that the ticket ought to be digital – which one assumes means not on paper. So how someone in an area that does not issue chip cards and cannot use a mobile app is going to be covered here is currently unknown. This all looks very messy presently, but there might be an opportunity for a public transport authority to innovate here – any authority that masters making a solid app based ticket that is easy to cancel will undoubtedly gain extra ticket sales.
Can I take children or a bicycle along with me on my 49 Euro Ticket?
Probably not everywhere, but the exact rules have not yet been cleared up.
It is likely any child older than 6 will need their own ticket, but this might cost less than 49 Euro – but how this will work is unknown currently, and regional differences are possible.
You will still probably still need a separate ticket to take along a bicycle in some parts of Germany, although probably not all – Baden Württemberg has just made it free to take bikes along on regional trains after 9am weekdays, and all day weekends, and taking a bike is generally free in Hessen (although the rules are quite confusing). So expect different standards in different parts of Germany on this as well. Different rules for bike carriage for those with 49 Euro Tickets than for those with other passes might also crop up as a problem – but has not been seen yet.
What journeys does the ticket cover and not cover?
The ticket is for regional public transport, but across the whole of Germany. De facto this means city and regional buses, trams, metros, and S-Bahn and regional trains – regional trains are mostly categorised as RB, RE and IRE in German timetables. Long distance trains (IC and ICE, and Flix) and long distance buses (Flixbus etc.) are not included. At the moment it is not known whether some borderline cases – InterCity trains that nevertheless receive a regional subsidy for example, or tourist railways – are going to be included – check those on a case by case basis. You can check the category of any train in DB’s Reiseauskunft.
Does the ticket only cover public transport operated by publicly owned operators?
No. A lot of public transport in Germany is operated by private companies that have won tenders to operate lines, especially in regional rail. Whether a route is operated by Deutsche Bahn (public) or e.g. National Express or Go-Ahead (private) does not matter. Only the category of train matters – if it is a regional train, the 49 Euro ticket will work. If it is a long distance train (IC, ICE or Flixtrain), it will not.
So I could travel from München to Hamburg as many times in a month as I wanted on this ticket?
Yes, but only using regional trains. That would take you 12 hours with 4 changes, versus about 6 hours direct on a ICE – but ICEs are not included in the 49 Euro Ticket! In reality this ticket is going to be used more for short and medium distance trips – trips like Berlin to Görlitz or Hamburg to Westerland (Sylt) – than for trips from one end of Germany to the other.
Does a Germany-wide ticket for regional public transport make sense?
Germany is divided up into dozens of public transport authority areas (Verkehrsverbunde) – and many of these are quite small (map here). Crossing from one Verkehrsverbund to a neighbouring one often meant a much more expensive ticket – even for just a few more kilometres. The 49 Euro Ticket completely eliminates this problem. There could well have been other ways to eliminate the issue – and even perhaps cheaper ways – but the crux is that this major headache is removed thanks to this new ticket. That is probably more significant than being able to use the ticket country-wide.
Does the ticket work across the border to neighbouring countries?
At the time of writing we do not know exactly where this work, but the predecessor 9 Euro Ticket did work on some lines into neighbouring countries – some of those are listed here.
How did this idea come about?
Faced with rising petrol prices, the German government proposed a temporary fuel tax reduction for the summer of 2022. The Green Party (in the governing coalition) only agreed to this if public transport tickets were likewise reduced in price – and out of this compromise emerged the so-called “9 Euro Ticket” – in June, July and August 2022 regional and local public transport in Germany was available for just 9 Euro per month. The success of the 9 Euro Ticket scheme then led to a debate about a permanent follow up ticket – and that is the 49 Euro Ticket.
What are the economics of this?
In short: it’s complicated. No-one has really stepped back and asked what is the best way – economically or ecologically – to do this. The political compromise that led to the 9 Euro Ticket then resulted in a sort of “what next?” political argument – that then led to the 49 Euro Ticket. By setting the cost at 49 Euro, the increase in passenger numbers is predicted to be more moderate than were the price set at 29 Euro (see this argument made by Greenpeace for example). The ticket is supposed to also be cost-neutral for operators – the lower income from ticket sales is supposed to be offset by the greater public subsidy that was agreed to get the scheme to start, so operators are supposed to not suffer.
Who can buy a 49 Euro Ticket?
At the time of writing this has not been confirmed, but the 9 Euro Ticket was available to everyone – residents and non-residents alike. So it is a fair assumption this ticket will not have any sort of residence requirement. Tourists should be able to buy it too.
How can someone buy a 49 Euro Ticket?
We do not know yet. Transport Minister Wissing’s party is obsessed by digitisation, so that the ticket must be available digitally was a central part of his ministry’s plans – but whether that means only digitally is not yet known. The predecessor 9 Euro Ticket was available both digitally and on paper from ticket machines or ticket offices. Wissing has also talked about this being a kind of subscription, but one that can be cancelled every month – but whether it would then be compulsory to complete some kind of subscription sign up, so as to then cancel it a month later, is currently not known. It is likely the ticket will be non-transferable – it will have to have your name on it, preventing you lending it to friends or family.
The Hamburg public transport authority HVV has already launched a kind of pre-purchase system for the 49 Euro Ticket, and has its own FAQ as well (in German). This might be a template for how ticket purchase will ultimately work, and as the ticket works nationally you could theoretically order it in Hamburg and use it anywhere. The HVV system does however require your bank details and not just use a credit card – but there seems to be nothing against using any bank account with a BIC/SWIFT and IBAN code.
5.11.2022 – link added to the bicycle policy, and link to the Hamburg pre-order system now included
5.11.2022 – questions added about whether the ticket makes sense, and if it can be used internationally
6.11.2022 – more detail added about what tickets the 49 Euro Ticket will replace, in light of questions asked
6.11.2022 – new Q about the economics of the scheme added and answered
6.11.2022 – line added about not knowing whether replacement of passes with the 49 Euro Ticket will be automatic or not, based on the link to the MVV page Edmund Lauterbach sent me
7.11.2022 – more added about bikes, in light of the new bike rules in Baden-Württemberg
7.11.2022 – link to Die Zeit interview added
26.12.2022 – article re-worked based on discussion about how to cancel the ticket on Mastodon
10.1.2023 – part added about chip card tickets