German finance minister makes U-turn on €9 public transit ticket

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BERLIN — Germany’s liberal Finance Minister Christian Lindner on Wednesday reversed his outright opposition to continuing a cut-price nationwide public transport ticket, but warned that the country’s 16 regions need to come up with a plan to keep it going.

Through the summer, a government program aimed at alleviating inflation and cutting energy consumption has meant Germans could buy a single, subsidized ticket valid on all metros, buses, trams and regional trains across the country for just €9 each month.

The policy, generally well-received despite overcrowding on many trains, cost €2.5 billion to finance and Lindner had previously ruled out an extension beyond August, claiming a permanent system would cost €14 billion annually.

But on the final day of the existing tickets’ validity, and with 52 million sold nationwide, Lindner’s position has softened.

“[Transport Minister] Volker Wissing has convinced me,” he said on social media following a Cabinet meeting. A future digital ticket can be developed at a “fraction of the cost,” the leader of the Free Democrats (FDP) said, while indicating that the country’s 16 regions now have to propose a plan.

“When the financing question is clear, the [ticket] price can be fixed,” Lindner said.

Speaking on national radio earlier on Wednesday, Wissing, who is also from Lindner’s FDP, put the onus on regional capitals to figure out a unified tariff system. “One cannot expect the federal government to simply put money on the table if the federal states have no ideas as to what the new ticket should look like,” Wissing said.