The experiment of charging a flat rate of nine euros per month for a voucher that allowed passengers unlimited travel on Germany’s regional train, tram and bus networks has saved the emission of 1.8 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in three months, according to the Association of German Transport Companies.
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Some 20% of the 52 million tickets that have been sold since the measure began on June 1, designed to reduce fuel consumption and combat inflation, were purchased by people who did not usually use public transport. The three months of the experiment ended this Wednesday, August 31.
According to a study by the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV, for its acronym in German), the saving in emissions has been possible due to the number of people who, thanks to the payment of nine euros, switched from cars to public transport.
“The popularity of the nine-euro bill has not been reduced and its contribution to the fight against climate change is verifiable,” says the transport employer. The organization calculates that the emissions saved are equivalent to the energy needed for 350,000 homes and that in one year a similar saving would be obtained by introducing a speed limit on German motorways (the average car emits around 4.6 tons of CO2 per year ).
Criticized for what some interpreted as indifference to the rise in fuel prices and the sharp rise in prices in recent months in Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has expressed satisfaction with the plan. “Our best idea to date,” he says.
It is estimated that the plan has also served to contain inflation that is currently around 8%, a slightly lower percentage than it could have reached.
Public transport users have applauded the proposal both for its low cost and its simplicity, since it eliminates many complications: from the innumerable transport zones to the different ticket categories in each region.
Around 37% of the people who bought the pass used it to go to work; 50% for daily trips, such as shopping or going to the doctor; 40% to visit other people; and 33%, for day trips.
“I traveled from Bavaria in the south to Rostock in the north and saw places I would never have bothered to visit otherwise,” 80-year-old Ronald Schenck told a regional broadcaster. “I’ve saved a fortune and I’ve had a lot of fun.”
Keep subscription or not
There is a lot of pressure on the Government and on the regional administrations to maintain the subscription in some way. Polls show a high level of enthusiasm for the mechanism but the price of any substitute could be up to six times higher.
According to the German environmental agency, the ecological damage resulting from a ton of CO2 emissions costs about 180 euros. After some authorities said that maintaining the subsidies was too expensive in the current inflationary climate, activists have used the value of those CO2 emissions to argue that the Government must continue to guarantee the low price of public transport.
As reasons for not repeating the plan, critics speak of overcrowded trains and passengers who on many occasions were left without bringing their bicycles on board. They also fear that keeping subscriptions cheap means less money for the development of transport networks, which are especially poor in rural areas where there are sometimes no connections between independent services. Ticket sales in rural areas were the lowest, which has been linked to the lack of public transportation there.
For its study, the VDV conducted a total of 78,000 interviews with public transport users across the country (about 6,000 interviews per week), in collaboration with the national railway company Deutsche Bahn and the market research companies Forsa and RC Research. .
Translation of Francisco de Zarate