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Are public transport fares a powerful tool for the turnaround in transport?

To coincide with the 20th anniversary of VBB, the largest transport association in terms of area, the VBBimPuls event was held on 6 June at the euref Campus in Berlin. The effects of changes in fares on passenger numbers as well as possibilities for designing fare systems were discussed, not only by representatives from industry and politics, but also by the audience. civity was represented at the event by Mr Friedemann Brockmeyer.

Moderated by journalist Nikolaus Doll from the ‘Welt’ newspaper, VBB boss Susanne Henckel, VOR boss Thomas Bohrn, civity project manager Friedemann Brockmeyer, VVS boss Horst Stammler, Stefan Gelbhaar (Bündnis 90/die Grünen) and Dr. Martell Beck (BVG) discussed various push and pull measures to accelerate the turnaround in transport.

In addition to the presentation and critical questioning of fare products, such as the ‘Vienna model’ or the newly introduced VBB company ticket, related areas, such as sales and communication, were also examined. The participants generally agreed that fare adjustments are a determining factor when it comes to increasing passenger numbers. However, Dr. Beck’s statement that “price alone […] is not a panacea” also met with agreement. An affordable ticket only attracts passengers if the offer is right. This means first investing in infrastructure, procuring new vehicles and training staff in order to master the already high workload, especially at peak times. Mr Brockmeyer pointed out that in this case the introduction of a 365-euro ticket would result in a loss of revenue for transport companies, which would have to be compensated for on a permanent basis in order to ensure the public service. And this meant there would not be enough money to invest in the above-mentioned areas.

With a view to the future, some participants would like to see stronger cooperation with policymakers at federal-state level and predict that mergers or cooperation between the individual associations like, for instance, in Baden-Württemberg, will lead to an early improvement of the patchwork landscape of transport associations. In addition, there should be more and simpler e-fares, motorists should be penalised through targeted parking management and the first and last mile should be connected in order to attract more and more people to public passenger transport.