Deutschlandticket: a public transport subscription with corporate benefits
Across Europe, public transport volumes are still up to 30% down compared to before the coronavirus lockdowns. But in 2023, the sector is fighting back. Prime example: the subscription formula that kicks off in Germany on 1 May. The ‘Deutschlandticket’ has clear advantages for corporate mobility too. And if successful, it could be a model for other countries.
The ‘Deutschlandticket’ (or D-Ticket for short) is the successor of the so-called 9-Euro-Ticket, which allowed passengers to travel local and regional transport in all of Germany for a flat rate of just €9 per month. This corona-era measure was valid only from June to August 2022.
However, since the 9-Euro-Ticket was successful in stimulating public transport usage, increasing customer satisfaction and (somewhat) reducing car usage, Germany’s federal and state governments were keen to establish a permanent offer. This became the D-Ticket, which goes on sale from 3 April and is valid from 1 May.
For €49 per month, the D-Ticket offers access to local and regional transport across Germany.
- Included: local and regional bus, train and rail services (including urban tram, U-Bahn and S-Bahn networks, as well as RE and RB trains).
- Not included: long-distance train services (EC, IC, ICE). But there are exceptions. ICE trains in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia will be covered by the D-ticket.
- Still uncertain: whether private transport offerings (like Flix’s long-distance bus and rail services) will be included.
Like the 9-Euro-Ticket, the D-Ticket is personal and non-transferable, and offers period-based, unlimited access to a wide range of public transport modes across Germany. But unlike the 9-Euro-Ticket, the D-Ticket won’t have to be renewed every month, and it is not a time-limited offer. In other words, it’s a genuine subscription – which can also be cancelled on a monthly basis.
The price, however, is not permanent: after a two-year freeze, it could start rising in step with inflation. On the other hand, if enough people subscribe, prices could remain low.
Discussions about the D-Ticket’s format show Germany’s still-hesitant attitude towards digitalization. The ultimate goal is to turn the D-Ticket into an entirely virtual product, to be bought online and used via an app. Meanwhile, it will also be available as a physical card and, at least until the end of this year, as a paper ticket, to be bought at the counter.
For employers, the D-Ticket offers an interesting extension of the mobility options they provide for their employees. Germany already has a ‘Jobticket’ – monthly or annual subscriptions for public transport that employers can purchase at a discount to give to their employees free of charge, or at a reduced price.
Not only does the D-Ticket significantly expand the range of this (typically regional) Jobticket, but if the employer finances at least 25% of the D-Ticket, state and federal governments offer a 5% reduction on the total cost. With this formula, employees would get a D-Ticket for no more than €34.30 per month.
In other words: the D-Ticket adds a cheap, easy and wide-ranging public-transport solution to the mobility options Germany’s companies can already offer to their employees. Which is of direct benefit to corporates, but also offers longer-term potential: the D-Ticket could become a vital component of a comprehensive Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) ecosystem in Germany.
Governments, public transport providers and corporates in other countries will be observing with interest whether the D-Ticket will be a success – which ultimately will be a function of its popularity (with users) and affordability (by government). But flat-rate public transport is an idea that’s not just limited to Germany.
- In the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, all public transport (except first class on trains) has been free since 2020. Recently there have been similar pilots in Estonia and Sweden, but previous experiments show that making public transport entirely free usually turns out to be financially unsustainable in the long run. (Except perhaps in a very rich country like Luxembourg).
- Austria offers a Climate Ticket (KlimaTicket Ö): for an annual fee of €1,095 you get access to all standard public transport services (including public and private rail services and urban transport services). Employers can buy the tickets for their employees tax-free, or reimburse them tax-free for the full amount.
- From 1 January to 31 March, over 130 bus operators in England (outside London) are participating ‘Get Around for £2’. Normally, an average bus ticket price is £2.80, but some singles in rural areas cost more than £5. Buses are the most popular form of public transport in England, representing half of all journeys.
The key for public transport to get more bums on seats is convenience, and a flat-rate fee is just one component of that ambition. Expect public transport in 2023 to become more customer-centric, app-based and AI-driven. Each of these evolutions provides better touch points for corporate mobility strategies to integrate public transport options.