Homeless people are sitting or lounging around the station, there are groups of drunks and various strange types that you don’t want to meet. Fewer policemen, but even more drunken bottles and some shards, the unmistakable smell of marijuana in the air at the entrance to the station. And everywhere, above all, a huge number of people getting off the trains, boarding or waiting for the train.
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Many connections have various delays, some do not run, because there is a partial shutdown on the main line in Hamburg. At the headquarters of Deutsche Bahn (DB), or the German Railways, a third of the counters are open, so people who need some information or to buy a ticket have to wait tens of minutes for their turn.
At several platforms, especially those where high-speed trains stop, there is literally a commotion and so many people that it is not only impossible to get on the train, but also to get to the platform. However, many other trains going to places not too far from Hamburg are overcrowded.
Many people already have respirators on the platform. Others still hold them in their hands and put them on only after boarding the train, where they are still mandatory in one of the few places in Germany.
52 million Germans
“Let it be over,” an elderly lady, waiting for the train to Bremen, relieves her husband. “You can’t travel like this,” he says, looking a little scared at the completely full platform. What the elderly lady hopes to end up with is the nine-euro ticket program (that is, for about 220 crowns) introduced by the federal government from June to the end of August. The ticket for all trains, trams and buses in Germany was valid for one month after purchase and it was possible to travel in second class with it. It could be bought online or in vending machines or ticket offices at railway stations.
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It was non-transferable, so you had to sign it, and if necessary, you had to prove yourself with your ID card or passport. Because Germany had to comply with European rules that do not allow its own citizens to be given priority over citizens of other EU countries, the ticket was valid for both Germans and foreigners.
According to a study published by the Association of German Carriers (VDV), about 52 million Germans bought the nine-euro ticket, of which about 20 percent were those who had not used public transport before. According to the study, the ticket reduced greenhouse gas emissions to the extent produced by Brno. It also limited the pressure on the growth of inflation and helped low-income households spend the holidays more pleasantly.
“The popularity of the 9-euro tickets has been enormous and its positive effect on addressing climate change is demonstrable,” the study claims.
The flip side of the coin was an extreme increase in the number of passengers, especially during rush hours, to which the railways in particular were often unable to respond. “If Deutsche Bahn were in good condition, they would be able to handle even a nine-euro ticket. The problem is that they weren’t doing very well even before this program,” says 50-year-old Keno from Berlin. “It was a kind of traveling socialism. Almost free, but often with corresponding quality,” he adds.
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Based on my own experience, I can say how and when. If one didn’t travel at peak times and on busy routes, one had a very decent DB standard almost for free. But at the same time, he lost the certainty that he would sit on the train, or that he would even get on it. “It was the best idea ever,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz praises the nine-euro ticket.
On Sunday, the German government announced that the program would continue in a modified form.