In the night from Wednesday to Thursday, both the 9-euro ticket for bus and train and the so-called tank discount, a reduction in energy taxes on fuel to the minimum permissible in the EU, expire. The federal government decided on these two measures in order to temporarily relieve the burden on citizens in view of high energy prices.
The prices for petrol and diesel are likely to rise again significantly when the tank discount ends – but when and how much is still unclear. “We will certainly see a mixture of high and low prices in the coming days and weeks,” says Jürgen Albrecht, fuel price expert at ADAC. The price differences depending on the region and time of day are already in the double-digit cent range. “Initially it will be even more.”
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The background: From midnight on September 1st, the old tax rates will apply again for petrol and diesel. Including VAT, the price for premium E10 petrol will increase by 35 cents per liter and 17 cents more per liter for diesel. However, the lower tax rates also applied to gas station operators – so some of them are likely to have fuel they bought cheaply, which they can also sell at a correspondingly lower price.
The Bundeskartellamt announced on Tuesday that it would closely monitor the pricing of gas stations after September 1st. After all, competition in the fuel market doesn’t work particularly well, said Andreas Mundt, president of the agency. At the start of the tax cut, there were sometimes heated discussions as to whether the corporations would really pass on the benefit in full to customers.
“In the overall balance, we find that the tax reduction has not fully reached the consumer,” says ADAC expert Albrecht. The high prices cannot be fully explained by various special factors – the consequences of the war, the weak euro, the low water level in the Rhine and the associated high transport costs.
Without the fuel price tax reduction, refueling would have been significantly more expensive in the past three months. There is no doubt about that, says Prof. Manuel Frondel from the RWI Leibniz Institute for Economic Research – and yet he hardly leaves a good hair on the tank discount. “The low prices mean that people drive more – that’s ecologically counterproductive.”
Added to this is the unfair distribution, according to Frondel. After all, those who have several cars and drive them a lot, tend to benefit from the tax cut, i.e. households with high and middle incomes. “Low-income households, on the other hand, often don’t have a car at all and therefore don’t benefit from the tool at all.”
With the 9-euro ticket, the balance of many players and experts is much more positive. The response from the population was great: According to the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV), 52 million tickets were sold, plus 10 million cheaper subscriptions.
From September 1st, the old, mostly significantly higher prices will be due for monthly tickets again. There is also a risk of further increases in the near future: high costs for electricity and diesel are also a burden for many transport companies – and in many cases are likely to affect fares. In some regions, surcharges of 3, 4 or almost 5 percent have already been decided.
Unlike the tank discount, the discussion about a successor regulation for the 9-euro ticket has long been in full swing – as a 29, 49 or 69-euro ticket, for example. The sticking point, however, is not so much the price as the financing: Because the federal states are demanding above all an improvement in the basic offer in local transport: more infrastructure, more staff, more vehicles. And for that you need more money.
In the debate about continuing the 9-euro ticket, Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing insists on simplifying the tariff structures. “By buying so many tickets, people voted that it shouldn’t stay like this,” said the FDP politician on Wednesday on Deutschlandfunk, referring to the variety of tariff zones and transport associations.
He had convinced Finance Minister Christian Lindner that there had to be another, more modern ticket. “That’s why we will work to ensure that there is no relapse into the old tariff structures, as is now the case from September 1st.”
For a successor to the 9-euro ticket, however, the structure of the ticket and its financing would first have to be clarified – and then the price. Under these conditions, the federal government is also prepared to contribute to the financing, said the Minister of Transport. “One cannot expect the federal government to simply put money on the table if the federal states themselves have no suggestions as to what the new ticket should look like.”
The consumer advice centers have criticized the end of the 9-euro ticket for buses and trains without replacement for the time being. The head of the Federal Association (vzbv), Ramona Pop, told the German Press Agency that letting it end without a hitch was the worst possible news for consumers. “According to studies, the ticket has curbed inflation, saved energy, relieved wallets and the climate and provided an impetus for the urgently needed traffic turnaround.”
The special ends on Wednesday. In June, July and August, the 9-euro tickets enabled travel on buses and trains in local public transport throughout Germany for one month. According to industry information, around 52 million tickets were sold. The federal government had financed the campaign with 2.5 billion euros to compensate for loss of income from transport providers.
Consumer advocate Pop warned that the end of the 9-euro ticket would now lead to an absurd situation: “First politicians attracted people with a cheap public transport ticket. Now they are being deterred by price increases – after all, some transport companies have already announced significant price increases.”