Starting Monday (May 1st) people in Germany can now use the nation’s public transport system — buses, metro system, as well as local and regional trains — at the flat rate of 49 euros (54 dollars). As per France 24, the German government has launched this new initiative to encourage people to use public transport instead of cars as a way to reduce carbon emissions.
The “Deutschlandticket” or the “Germany ticket” initiative offers travellers a flat-rate travel card that costs €49 ($54) per month — €588 ($645) per year and allows unlimited travel on public transport across the country, including buses, trams, and trains. However, it does not cover long-distance travel on buses or high-speed trains, such as the Intercity Express (ICE).
The German government has expressed a hope that this initiative will help to reduce the number of people using cars and, as a result, cut down the country’s carbon footprint.
Transport Minister Volker Wissing labelled the initiative “the biggest public transport reform in German history.”
However, the initiative’s success is far from assured. According to the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV), it is expected that only about 16 million people out of Germany’s total population of 84 million will take advantage of the new flat-rate travel card.
Around 750,000 tickets have already been sold, but this number does not include those who plan to switch from their current transport subscriptions to the new initiative.
The travel card has been welcomed by environmental groups as an important step towards fighting climate change.
However, critics have argued that the card is too expensive and that it will not be accessible to everyone — for the poorest people in society — they also point to the fact that there are no concessions for students or people on low incomes.
Talking to AFP, transport expert Oliver Wittig said that the 49-euro ticket will particularly benefit “urban residents who already have a more expensive subscription.”
The financing of Germany’s new flat-rate travel card was the subject of lengthy debate, which contributed to the delay in its rollout.
Eventually, an agreement was reached between the federal government and the country’s states to each contribute 1.5 billion euros towards the financing of the initiative. This was done to avoid adding to the national rail operator’s existing debt pile.
Despite this, the expenditure has faced criticism from the opposition, who argue that the money could have been better spent to ” improve and renovate rail infrastructure.”
The criticism of the expenditure on the flat-rate travel card has highlighted the significant investment needed to fix Germany’s rail network. Official estimates suggest that around 8.6 billion euros a year will be required over the next decade to maintain and improve the network.
(With inputs from agencies)
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