It will be an amazing summer for millions of passengers. Instead of getting more expensive as is usually the case, from this Wednesday buses and trains will be drastically cheaper.
For 9 euros a month, in June, July and August you can “invite” to the nationwide public transport. There is already a lot of interest in cheap advance tickets in many places and transport companies are getting ready to hurry. It’s also a great test for customers and the industry: will the charm offensive be able to get more people to switch cars? Politicians rely on many new discoveries outside of the summer campaign.
The 9-euro tickets are “a huge bargain,” said Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP). Suppliers were now able to show what public transport can do. And citizens could try something new when it comes to mobility. In fact, it is hoped that many people who have the flat rate of € 9 will even consider taking the bus to the cinema, for example – without having to look for the right fare zone for tickets and parking space in the city. For regular customers with monthly and annual subscriptions, the low-cost campaign means three months’ relief in higher costs.
Hundreds of thousands of tickets for 9 euros have already been sold. How often do people drive it, how far, at what times – everything is uncertain. It will probably be full, especially during rush hours, when agglomerations are crowded anyway – and on weekends there are often full trains to tour destinations. How many clients are there? “We don’t have the nebulous idea,” said Jörg Sandvoß, head of DB Regio’s regional office recently. According to the Association of Transport Companies (VDV), you can expect 30 million ticket users per month. But these are only estimates.
To inquire about passenger attitudes, federal and state governments have agreed to a central assessment, the Department of Transportation announced. This assessment is made by the VDV. An industry organization commissioned market researchers to conduct surveys. In three waves a representative group of citizens will be asked by phone and online during the campaign, for example how often they use the 9 euro ticket and how far they travel with it.
However, for this assessment, there should be no research on buses and trains. “For us, it is not only about customers, but also about people who are not customers,” explained the spokesman for the association. The industry also wants to find out how people enjoyed bus and rail travel. “The exciting question is how many customers have returned and how many are left?” The first results are to be published during the campaign. In addition, the Länder and transport associations can also independently carry out market research on the spot.
Fuller trains also mean overcrowded rubbish bins, rubbish under the seats, dirty toilets. According to Deutsche Bahn, it strengthens its cleaning teams and also collects garbage on the way. Maintenance in workshops will also increase. “We set everything in motion,” explained the regional head of DB Sandvoß. The group did not provide any figures on this. That’s all: at train stations, 700 additional security and service personnel are expected to ensure that boarding and alighting is as smooth as possible – four times more than during a normal summer.
Trade unions fear conflicts with conductors and other workers – if, for example, people are sent off overcrowded trains or there are disputes over tickets. “Don’t take your frustration out on employees who are just doing their job,” Martin Burkert, vice president of the Railroad and Transport Association (EVG), urged everyone. “Pentecost weekend will be a great stress test.”
Another major challenge is that construction work on the track network is inconspicuous. Because the railway is building at a record level, struggling with large renovation backlogs. It is not without consequences. In April, she was less punctual than she had been in a long time. Industrial customers are penalizing freight rail again and again, which has to give way to passenger trains.
There are many large construction sites during the summer, for example at the main train stations in Frankfurt, Dortmund, Stuttgart and Berlin, between Hamburg and Hanover, Fulda and Würzburg, Osnabrück and Rheine, Brunswick and Magdeburg, and Munich and Salzburg.
Wissing builds on valuable findings from the experiment. “Because then we know: what exactly do people expect from us?” The passengers have not yet been questioned in this regard. According to the ministry, for example, the use of different customer groups should be examined – their causes, obstacles, price perception and satisfaction. The results should then be taken into account when heads of federal and state departments want to advise on how to deal with buses and trains in general in the fall. The working group has been working on the proposals for a long time.
For years, the industry has also been discussing cheaper fares, such as annual tickets for 365 euros. Do many people then leave their car? Until now, it has been largely a theoretical discussion. Now comes the reality check. If the experiment is successful, one can imagine a new stimulus in this direction – even if the experimental set-up is so unique that it would be difficult to extend it. Because at the same time as the cheap summer for public transport, the tax allowance for gasoline and diesel fuel at gas stations will also come into force. In addition to the price, more attractive connections are also important, especially away from the centers. (dpa)