The 9-Euro Ticket Reveals Unacknowledged Privileges

Train travel is too often discussed in terms of climate policy and too rarely as an issue of social justice. And yet the railroads have practiced social selection.


A couple from Hagen wants to take their 16-year-old son to Cologne for some spontaneous shopping and then visit his grandmother. The railroad has a great offer for this: the Schöner-Tag-Ticket NRW. This super-saver fare for the one-hour trip costs 99.40 euros for a return trip. On Flixbus, the same route costs half as much. If the family has a car or can borrow one, they can get away even cheaper for just the cost of fuel.

Mobility is a question of money, and train travel is the privilege of those who don’t have to watch every euro. Everyone else often forgoes the trip to Cologne altogether or looks for cheaper alternatives. And then came the 9-euro ticket. So this is what the world looks like when everyone can afford tickets. For some regular train riders, it comes as a shock because it becomes clear that traveling by train has been socially segregated (and is only temporarily not so).

Train travel is too often discussed as a climate policy necessity and too rarely as a question of social justice. Deutsche Bahn belongs to the state and thus to all citizens. But for decades, the high, sometimes horrendous, prices have ensured that social selection has been practiced here.

The need to catch up is enormous, because fair access to the railroads requires so much more than new tracks, more trains and expansion and restructuring at all levels. It also requires ensuring that train tickets are permanently affordable for all social classes.

And certainly – there is far too little reflection on the fact that women and girls have a right to travel by regional train free of sexual harassment or assault – regardless of the time of day. The same goes for other vulnerable groups.

All of this will cost a lot of money, but other areas of public life are also subsidized by the state because they are in line with political will. Not only the Greens, but also the man who calls himself “Climate Chancellor” needs to think about climate protection and social justice together. Anyone who wants to change society must also have the courage to set new priorities.

The 9-euro ticket therefore only sheds light on what Deutsche Bahn could be: a convenient, contemporary, climate-friendly and socially-just means of transportation.

And yes, it sounds like a utopia.

This article originally appeared in German in the taz. Translator: Dillon Drasner. Reproduced with permission.