German rail fares go down as part of climate measures

Some long-distance rail fares in Germany have been cut as part of measures to tackle climate change. The German government has cut the rate of value-added tax (VAT) on rail travel from 19% to 7%, and with the national rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) passing on this reduction to passengers, it means some fares of 50km or over have come down by around 10%.

For several years, VAT on short-distance rail journeys (under 50km) in Germany has been set at 7%, but following a reordering of certain taxes, VAT on long-distance has now been put at the same level. DB says it expects an extra five million passengers a year will use the train thanks to the lower fares.

Meanwhile, as long-distance rail does well, air passenger numbers appear to be falling. The German airports federation ADV says passengers using commercial flights fell by 12% in November, the fourth month in a row with such a decrease. And the latest figures from Denmark show a stagnation in the number of passengers using Danish airports after 10 years of uninterrupted growth. Some have speculated that ‘flight shame’, a concept that has emerged from Sweden to highlight the environmental impact of flying, has started to have an impact on passenger numbers.

DB has also reduced charges for other services intended to make train travel more attractive, including fees for taking bicycles on trains, seat reservations, and the annual BahnCard100 discount railcard. It also comes at the same time that the German government has announced an €86 billion investment in the network, the largest in its history.

A recent survey showed most European, Chinese and US citizens plan to fly less for leisure this year to bring down aviation CO2 emissions and help avoid catastrophic climate change. The European Investment Bank (EIB) asked 30,000 respondents globally, and 36% of Europeans said they already flew less for holidays to help prevent climate change and 75% planned to do so in 2020. In China 94% of respondents said they are planning less air travel for holidays this year, while in the US the figure is 69%.