Public transport New Year price hike

Corona has hit local travel hard - so bus and train trips within Berlin are getting 1.9 per cent pricier from 1 January 2021.

What taking the U-Bahn might feel like in 2021.
What taking the U-Bahn might feel like in 2021.Sabine Gudath

Berlin-Besides elections and hopefully an end to months of corona misery, Berliners can also look forward to bus and rail fare increases in 2021. 

In the Berlin-Brandenburg region, passengers on public transport will have to pay an average of 1.9 per cent more for their tickets, news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) has calculated - but the situation varies across Germany as operators pursue different post-corona strategies.

The last time the Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg (VBB) announced increases across the two states was not that long ago, with the price of a single AB ticket in Berlin rising from €2.80 to €2.90 on 1 January 2020. A year on, that ticket will cost €3.

VBB says this is down to rising living costs, electricity and fuel prices over the past 60 months, as well as operating and personnel costs at the 37 operators it encompasses. Proceeds from the fare increase will also apparently help build a financial basis for making travel by public transport more attractive in years to come.

Public transport across Germany has reportedly only served around 40 per cent of its usual passengers this year because of corona, and VBB isn't the only local provider raising prices to compensate. Passengers in Stuttgart will face a 2.7 per cent rise in April, while a 2.5 per cent rise will be introduced in Cologne, Bonn and the surrounding area. Prices in and around Munich already rose by 2.8 per cent in mid-December.

Corona sees more flexible options introduced

However, the impact of the pandemic isn't just being felt by providers playing financial catch-up - new ticket options are seeking to offer greater flexibility to those who now divide their time between their home office and real office more than before. Deutsche Bahn has been one of the companies to introduce a 10-day ticket giving passengers 10 reduced-price day tickets to use whenever they want over the course of a month. 

A new VBB option also has life post-corona in mind - a daily ticket, previously valid until 3am on the day following purchase, can now be used for 24 hours from the moment it is validated. The idea behind it is to make the ticket more attractive to tourists, according to VBB, as well as to expand possibilities for digital sales.

That ticket will also face a price hike of 20 cents to €8.80 in the Berlin AB zone. Accordingly, the price of a four single trip ticket bundle will rise by 40 cents to €9.40 in the same zone - the first change to its cost since 2014.

But some local transport authorities want to cut their customers some slack after a difficult year. In Bremen and the Rhine and Ruhr areas, prices will stay the same to encourage passengers to return to public transport and to reward the "loyalty" shown by customers throughout the pandemic.

Good news for season ticket holders (if you're under 65)

Whilst individual ticket prices within Berlin and Brandenburg are rising in the New Year, monthly and annual "Umweltskarte" season tickets will be staying the same. The VBB hopes making these subscription tickets better value for money will pursuade more passengers to choose one. 

No such luck for the over 65s - VBB's monthly 65plus subscription ticket is becoming more expensive by €1 a month, lifting the annual total for access to the network to €605. "Azubis" (aka trainees) will also face no increase to the €365 annual cost of a season ticket covering the whole VBB network - but this will now have to be paid in one annual payment, rather than in monthly installments.