Bus and train customers are annoyed about the pricing policy of the transport association. Next year, the municipal utilities’ low-cost “Lead City” offer will expire. There are no clear signals yet from the federal government regarding further subsidies.
It has been a year since Christoph Siefen switched from using his car to public transport. This was made possible by the 365-euro ticket that the city utility company (SWB) has been offering to new customers in Bonn for the last year. The 43-year-old was one of the first to benefit from the low-cost annual subscription. “It saves me a lot of money because I used to have to drive to Roisdorf by car to catch the first train to work,” writes Siefen in a letter to the GA. His ticket offer expires at the end of the year and there is no comparable replacement offer as yet.
“Why can’t customers be looked after any more?” complains Siefen. He himself works as a train driver for Deutsche Bahn AG. Given the regular ticket prices of the transport company, he will probably have to switch back to using his car in 2020. The 365-euro ticket was originally created by the federal government as part of the “Lead City” project to mitigate air pollution caused by car traffic. Siefen is not the only one who is annoyed about the public transport pricing policy. Claudia Podlacha, 50, has been purchasing the 365-euro ticket since last February. “I have been using public transport intensively since then, including the related offer from Nextbike.” The car stays mainly in the garage and is only used for special exceptions. Unlike Siefen, Podlacha was asked in an SWB survey by post about its mobility policy. There, she stated that she was interested in extending the ticket or in a comparable offer; however, none is yet available to her.
The SWB can understand the displeasure of many customers, says Michael Henseler, Deputy Press Officer of the SWB. “As much as we are delighted to be 'Lead City', we must adhere to the funding guidelines set by the federal government.”
The tickets are allocated exclusively to new customers in the Bonn area and are valid for a maximum of one year. “From the outset, we have emphasised that a limited period of funding is difficult to retain new customers. But unfortunately our hands are tied.”
Meanwhile, there are no clear signals from the federal government to continue the “Lead City” project and thus the 365-euro ticket, says Markus Schmitz of the City of Bonn. There is interest in continuing the project and therefore talks are in progress with various players. This is a necessity, as the Federal Environment Agency has demanded drastic cuts in private transport in order to meet the German climate targets for 2030. This includes a heavier tax on fuel.
“Social hardships” must be accommodated and price reductions in public transport could be the first step. Christoph Siefen would be pleased about cheaper bus and train tickets. Claudia Podlacha also hopes that a similarly favourable offer as the 365-euro ticket will also be open to regular customers. It is now up to the city and the federal government to decide whether further funding will be provided for this.
(Original text; Carlotta Cornelius, translation John Chandler)