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On 25.01.2024, we went live with a survey on the use of the Deutschlandticket. Every student received a personal access link to participate in the survey via their university email address. The subject line is “Umfrage zur Nutzung des Deutschlandtickets”. We ask you to participate diligently in this really short survey.
At a special conference of transport ministers on 22.01.2024, it was agreed that the price of the Deutschlandticket would remain at €49 for the whole of 2024. The associated prices of the Semester Deutschlandticket and Jobticket will therefore also not increase for the time being.
In December 2023, the Stendal district council decided to no longer subsidize the Deutschlandticket, which would have rendered it invalid for local transport in Stendal. The decision was reversed a few days later. Nevertheless, debates about the Deutschlandticket continue, as there are still many regulatory gaps. Stendal showed that it is theoretically possible for individual transport companies to opt out of the ticket. There are also companies, for example, that offer the Deutschlandticket under different conditions (notice period of 24 hours, pausable subscription). The Federal Ministry of Transport is not enthusiastic about this.
The news spread like wildfire: after months of stalemate, the Koordinierungsrat Deutschlandticket finally decided on 27.11.23 what was already the status of negotiations in May of this year (!). From summer semester 2024, student bodies across Germany will have the option of purchasing a semester ticket for 60% of the price of the Deutschlandticket as a solidary financed ticket. At present, this would be €29.40 amounting to €176.40 per semester. Why it took until the end of November to decide on what was already the subject of negotiations in May probably remains the secret of the politicians.
In Freiberg, just like most other student bodies in Germany, it is unfortunately not possible for us to offer a semester ticket for the 2024 summer semester for purely organizational reasons. You can read below why this is the case.
The Koordinierungsrat’s decision
What does the Koordinierungsrat’s decision mean in concrete terms?
- The student bodies have the option, so the price does not apply automatically!
Instead, the student bodies of the universities must individually negotiate and conclude a contract with a public transport company. Although the price and area of validity of the ticket are fixed, it is still necessary to negotiate cancellation conditions, deadlines, exceptions and additional conditions (e.g. bicycle transport). Depending on the public transport company, this can take several months. Our negotiations on a semester ticket in Freiberg 2021/22 with the VMS (the local public transport company) lasted a whole year.
It is also still possible for the student bodies to negotiate a completely individual tariff with their public transport companies. However, it is questionable whether the transport companies will agree to this. This option is particularly interesting for student bodies whose semester ticket currently costs less than €29.40 per month.
- The Semester-Deutschlandticket can only be acquired as solidary financed ticket.
That means that every student at the university must pay the price of the ticket, even if they do not wish to use it. It is not possible to decide individually whether to purchase the ticket. In addition, the price is paid semester by semester. It is therefore also not possible to decide on a monthly basis whether to purchase the ticket. The price is charged together with the semester fee, which would increase the semester fee here in Freiberg from €94.00 to €270.40.
- The Semester-Deutschlandticket is dynamized by the 60% regulation.
Whenever the price of the Deutschlandticket, the future of which currently leaves many questions unanswered anyway, increases, the price of the semester ticket and thus the semester fee also increases automatically. To ensure that this model does not become a cost trap for students, it is important to have well-negotiated cancellation conditions. In addition, the dynamization is a disadvantage compared to individual semester ticket contracts, which usually have a fixed price that is renegotiated at certain intervals.
- Like the regular Deutschlandticket, the Semester-Deutschlandticket will be a digital ticket.
This means that a data exchange must take place between the student body and the transport company. An additional agreement would have to be made with the transport company regarding a physical version, e.g. in the form of a chip card.
- The top-up model that was previously in place will be abolished at the end of the 2024/25 winter semester.
This allowed students with a semester ticket to decide individually each month whether they wanted to upgrade their semester ticket to a Deutschlandticket by paying the difference between the Deutschlandticket and the semester ticket.
- Individual subsidization of the tickets by the federal states remains possible.
Bavaria, for example, offers the Deutschlandticket for students and trainees for a regular price of €29. The Koordinierungsrat’s offer is therefore not viable for the Bavarian student bodies. However, the Saxon government has made it clear from the start of the debate that the state will not subsidize the Deutschlandticket.
Underlying reasons for this decision
But why was this decision taken by the Koordinierungsrat, after several months of delay? As already stated, the content has not changed since May.
Our guess: the transport companies have exerted pressure because they fear a significant loss of income. The proposed resolution of the Koordinierungsrat, which is available to us, speaks a very clear language. In the explanatory memorandum of just over one A4 page, which explains why it would be advisable to adopt the conditions outlined, reference is primarily made to the loss of income that would otherwise be threatened.
The first two paragraphs of the explanatory memorandum are quoted here as an excerpt (translated from German):
“Solidary financed semester tickets are an important pillar for the use and financing of the public transport system in Germany. With the introduction of the Deutschlandticket, these models are no longer viable. The previous price level of local semester tickets is no longer accepted due to the lower added value compared to the Deutschlandticket with nationwide validity. Corresponding threats of termination and legal action have been made due to the low price difference of the previous semester tickets without additional nationwide benefits. There are fears of a massive slump in user numbers and a corresponding drop in revenue.
The proposed solidary financed nationwide semester ticket prevents this loss of revenue, as it is to be expected that a large majority of university locations will opt for it.”
“The solidary financed nationwide semester ticket is expected to be revenue-neutral compared to the previous semester ticket income before the introduction of the Deutschlandticket. Without the offer of a nationwide semester ticket, a considerable reduction in income is to be expected.”
It is clear that the motivation for this decision is of a financial nature. The student bodies are merely a way of securing the transport companies’ income. When setting the price, it was by no means a question of making students a good offer. Instead, the price is the result of a simple calculation in order to maintain full semester ticket revenues. The fact that the price corresponds exactly to the national average price also shows both sides of the coin: While the price offered will be cheaper for many student bodies, it will also be more expensive than the previous semester ticket price for many others.
It must also be pointed out that the tariff was negotiated over the heads of the student bodies. As early as May 2023, directly after the introduction of the Deutschlandticket and after it became known that the Koordinierungsrat was discussing a special tariff for students, the student bodies organized themselves nationwide. At several mobility summits, there was a constant exchange of views and pressure was exerted on politicians to finally incorporate the student perspective into the negotiations. Despite all efforts, negotiations were always only held about the students, never with them.
The fundamental legal question for solidary financed semester tickets is: Is the advantage that all students can use public transport at a reduced price proportionate to obliging those who do not wish to use the ticket to still pay the fee? To assess this question, the courts have essentially relied on three criteria in previous rulings.
- The semester ticket must actually benefit the far overwhelming majority of the student body. This is the case, for example, if the students expressly want a semester ticket or if they can use the semester ticket sensibly for trips between the university and their place of residence. However, there is no clear percentage definition of the “far overwhelming majority”.
- The monthly costs must be reasonable. This is compared with the BAföG maximum funding rate, which equates to the legally defined financial requirements of a student. The fact that this has long since ceased to have anything to do with reality is a completely different discussion …
- The price advantage that the semester ticket offers over a comparable regular ticket must be sufficiently large.
The third point in particular is questionable with the introduction of the Deutschlandticket compared to the existing semester tickets – because now there is a ticket available that has a significantly extended area of validity for a little more money and, on top of that, no longer obliges anyone to pay a contribution.
We would like to point out that the lowest price advantage confirmed by the courts to date (according to point 3) is 64%. The price advantage offered by the Semester-Deutschlandticket is only 40%. Whether this is still sufficient can only be clarified in court.
Semester Ticket in Freiberg
Due in particular to the necessary negotiations with a public transport company in conjunction with the collection of the ticket price by the university as part of re-registration (payment of the semester fee), it is not possible to offer the Semester-Deutschlandticket in Freiberg for the summer semester 2024 for purely organizational reasons. The re-registration period for the summer semester 2024 begins on 15.12.2023. Negotiations must be initiated and concluded by this date, and the university must also be notified of the increased fee, which it must then set up, etc. This is simply not possible. When asked, the university administration informed us that the regular deadline for the university administration to incorporate changes to the semester fee is 10 months. A change for the winter semester must be known by 01.12. of the previous year, a change for the summer semester by 01.06. of the previous year.
There have already been several initiatives in Freiberg to introduce a semester ticket, most recently in December 2021, which failed in April 2023 due to the mixed situation of the introduction of the Deutschlandticket, poor tariff offers from the local transport company and the resulting high level of uncertainty.
From the negotiations with the VMS at that time, we conclude that the VMS seems to have little interest in offering the Freiberg student body a semester ticket. The communication and negotiations with the VMS were very slow (long response times, constant putting off, hardly any concessions, general passivity), and finally a weak offer was made to us: €177 per semester for local public transport in the VMS area and local rail transport throughout Saxony.
We received this offer in December 2022, when the introduction of the Deutschlandticket for €49 per month was already foreseeable. We also noticed that after several months of evaluating our mobility survey from April 2022 to determine the price (or so we were told), the VMS surprisingly ended up estimating the exact national average semester ticket price at €177 per semester. What a strange coincidence …
Our experience to date therefore does not give us hope for swift and targeted negotiations with the VMS. In addition, our current data on the Freiberg student body’s need for a semester ticket is extremely poor. We know that the issue is still controversial among students. Before we can therefore introduce a semester ticket, we will first have to determine the actual demand among students. So there is still a lot of homework to be done before a semester ticket can be introduced in Freiberg.
It has been a while and is therefore hardly representative today, but it should be mentioned for the sake of completeness: in 2013, the efforts to introduce a semester ticket were brought to the referendum stage. At that time, 67% of those who voted decided against a semester ticket (voter turnout of 61%). The offer available at the time likewise covered all public transport in the VMS area as well as local rail transport throughout Saxony, but at a price of €111 per semester.
Employees of the State of Saxony have the opportunity to purchase the Deutschlandticket at a reduced price (currently €34.30) as a job ticket. This also applies to all employees of our university! So if you have a (part-time) job at the university (like HiWi, SHK, WHK), you can now purchase the job ticket. Please contact Mr. Frank Wehr () for further information.
In general, every employer has the option of offering the job ticket to their employees. So if you do not work at the university, ask your employer about the job ticket.
What happens next?
As we have explained in the previous paragraphs, the situation is anything but trivial (contrary to what the media reports suggest). The Koordinierungsrat’s decision is certainly a step in the right direction, but raises many follow-up questions. The populist announcement by Oliver Krischer (green party), Chairman of the Conference of Transport Ministers of the Federal States, that the semester ticket could be offered from the summer semester of 2024 will not be feasible at most universities for purely organizational reasons. The reactions of the student bodies to the decision have been correspondingly restrained. Due to the unclear future of the Deutschlandticket, the Semester-Deutschlandticket could become a cost trap for the student bodies. At the same time, the Koordinierungsrat’s decision will probably mean the end of the majority of individually negotiated tickets.
We are currently observing the nationwide developments following the decision and are networking with comparable student bodies in Saxony and nationwide, as there are similar questions and challenges throughout Germany at the moment. At the same time, we have hardly any experience of our own when it comes to the semester ticket. In addition to exchanging and gathering information, we are also holding talks with experts and decision-makers. As soon as we have a clearer picture of the overall situation, we will set up a semester ticket working group to determine the specific needs of the student body and enter into negotiations with a public transport company. Finally, there will be a referendum (vote among all TUBAF students) on the introduction of a semester ticket.
We will keep you informed about important developments by updating this website.
Your Department University Politics