Deutschlandticket – Semesterticket FAQ

In this FAQ, we aim to address the status of the semester ticket in the context of the Germany-wide Ticket (“Deutschlandticket“). Our current semester ticket contract will expire at the end of the winter semester 23/24. If there is no solution or follow-up contract for RWTH by the beginning of December, there will be no semester ticket in Aachen from the summer semester of 2024.

(Last updated: 11/27/2023)

Survey - Future of the semester ticket: How do the two given scenarios differ?

All students received an email on Monday (27.11.23) with a link to an EvaSys survey on the future of the semester ticket. It mentions two scenarios. These are models that were being discussed in politics at federal and state level at the time the survey was created. The proposals come from politicians; no student representatives were involved. The demands of the student representatives differ massively from the proposals of the politicians. The agreement at federal level, which had been postponed for months, was decided a few hours after the start of the survey by the coordinating council of the Deutschlandticket. The survey is now intended to show whether the policy proposal is supported by RWTH students. The survey will then serve as a basis for the student parliament to decide whether to continue the ticket. If the proposal does not receive the necessary majority in the vote in the student parliament, there will no longer be a semester ticket in Aachen from summer semester 2024!

The scenarios:

  1. A Germany-wide valid semester ticket based on solidarity funding for currently 29.40 euros per month (linked to a price of 60% of the Deutschlandticket). The federal and state governments have now agreed on this.
  2. Alternatively – in the case that no agreement had been reached at national level -, a semester ticket valid throughout NRW and based on solidarity funding for currently 29.40 euros per month (linked to a price of 60% of the Deutschlandticket). In this case, it would still have been possible to individually upgrade to a Germany-wide validity. The price for the upgrade would then have been 19.60 euros (49 euros – 29.40 euros).

What is the current status?

The “Coordination Council of the Deutschlandticket” has been discussing a nationwide solidarity model at federal and state level for months. This model was finally agreed on 27 November. We welcome the idea of a nationwide ticket. But the price is far too high. It will be 29.40 euros per month. That corresponds to 60% of 49 euros. In our opinion, this is too expensive to solidly justify the solidarity model and it is very questionable whether this will find a high level of acceptance among students. Student representatives were not involved in the drafting process.

The long period of uncertainty and the poor proposal have unfortunately shown once again that the social situation of students is not so high on the political agenda and that the student councils and student unions are among the few who stand up for students.

In early October, WDR Aachen produced a video with us on the current situation (now outdated). Here is the link to the local news.

Why is a solution needed now? / What happens from the summer semester of 2024 onwards?

Our current semester ticket contract runs until March 31, 2024, the end of the winter semester 23/24. Since the current price we pay for the semester ticket is considered too high by student bodies, transport companies, and politicians to justify the solidarity model, a follow-up contract cannot be concluded under the existing conditions.

If there is no nationwide, statewide, or local solution for the semester ticket by December, there will be no semester ticket from the summer semester of 2024 onwards!

Because a semester ticket contract requires approval from the student parliament and the fee regulations must be changed and published simultaneously. Since the re-registration for the summer semester at RWTH begins in January, the student parliament must decide on the amendment to the fee regulations and approve the contract in December. We are bound by the deadlines set by the universities and the re-registration periods.

We continue to do everything possible to provide students with affordable and sustainable mobility in the future!

By the way: For the current contract until the end of the winter semester, we are trying to negotiate a retroactive price reduction with the transport companies, so there could be a refund to all students – similar to the 9-euro ticket one. The outcome is still pending.

Why did the student parliament decide to terminate the SemesterTicket NRW?

The semester ticket consists of three different contracts: The basis is the AVV semester ticket. Building on this, there is the SemesterTicket NRW, the extension of the AVV semester ticket to the rest of NRW. Furthermore, there is the extension to the Netherlands (Add-On Zuid-Limburg). This means that Aachen students can use their semester ticket to travel all over NRW and on selected routes in Zuid-Limburg.

The contract for the AVV semester ticket expires at the end of the winter semester 23/24; in the past, three-year contracts have always been concluded. As the price we currently pay for the semester ticket is considered too high (compared to the Deutschlandticket) by the student bodies, transport companies and politicians to justify the solidarity model, no follow-up contract can be concluded under the current conditions.

For over a year, we have been campaigning for a solution for the semester ticket in times of the Deutschlandticket. The solidarity model would ensure that students would receive a Deutschlandticket at a significantly lower price. However, while the general public benefits from large price reductions, a decision on a Germany-wide semester ticket has been repeatedly postponed for months. A significant price reduction of the NRW semester ticket, which is an alternative option, is therefore also not being implemented. In this case, the semester contribution would fall significantly and the price for the monthly bookable Deutschlandticket upgrade would rise accordingly.

As no acceptable solution has yet been found, the student parliament has decided to terminate the SemesterTicket NRW (the supplementary contract to the AVV semester ticket contract). The ball is now in the court of politicians and the transport companies to propose a solution by December.

Aachen without a semester ticket?!

The loss of semester tickets would result in significantly higher mobility costs for students – contradicting the goal of the 49-euro ticket. Instead of using the semester ticket, students would have to buy a 49-euro germany-wide ticket, which would be about 15 euros more per month in Aachen.

The loss of the semester ticket is therefore unacceptable. Especially since students are structurally financially tight, as most live well below the poverty line of 1251 euros per month. For comparison, the maximum BAföG rate is currently 934 euros per month – and not even 11% of students receive BAföG.

Another problem is the loss of revenue for transport companies: Fixed revenues over a contract period of three years – in Aachen – have ensured reliable financing not only during the COVID-19 pandemic. To give some numbers: Assuming an average price of 35 euros per month for the NRW semester ticket (a conservative estimate), with approximately 700,000 students in NRW (excluding long distance university Hagen, which does not have a semester ticket), there would be a shortfall of 294 million euros in planned revenues for public transport in NRW. If the semester ticket is eliminated, the financing of public transport in NRW would collapse.

And for Aachen: The semester ticket contracts concluded by the Aachen student councils alone have a total contract volume of over 26 million euros per year (AVV part 142.24 euros (of which 99.87 euros for ASEAG and 42.36 euros for go.Rheinland), NRW extension 59.40 euros, extension to the Netherlands 5.29 euros per semester for approximately 63,000 students). If the semester ticket is eliminated, ASEAG would lose 12.6 million euros annually. This is also why the city council has unanimously passed a resolution in favor of a solution.

What is the situation in other cities? / Is time only tight in Aachen?

Aachen is the only city in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) where the contract expires at the end of the winter semester. This is mainly due to different contract models between public transportation companies and student bodies. In Aachen, there were three-year contracts renegotiated every three years. In other cities, there are often indefinite contracts with regular termination options. Many of these student bodies have also terminated their contracts to increase pressure on policymakers to find a quick solution for semester tickets. However, due to notice periods, which are usually one year, and contracts being terminated only in August/September 2023, the termination will take effect in the winter semester 24/25.

In Cologne, there is also a referendum on the extraordinary termination of the semester ticket during the ongoing semester/end of the semester, parallel to the university elections taking place there in December

Why does the price of the semester ticket need to decrease?

The semester ticket is offered in a solidarity model, meaning everyone pays the same price regardless of how much they use the ticket. Through this solidarity financing, our semester ticket was 80 to 90% cheaper than comparable tickets, almost without subsidies. Since the 49-euro ticket sets a new standard for the price, the semester ticket must become cheaper. Otherwise, we believe the solidarity financing would be unjustifiable.

What do the student bodies in NRW demand?

Shortly after the announcement of the 49-euro ticket, the student councils (ASten) in NRW gathered to discuss the future of the semester ticket. Since November 2022, through the State-wide student body Meeting (LAT) NRW, we have jointly demanded a nationally valid 129-euro semester ticket (equivalent to 21.50 euros per month). Currently (in the winter semester 23/24), our NRW-wide semester ticket costs 201.64 euros per semester (33.61 euros per month, without the extension to the Netherlands). The ticket should remain solidarily financed to maintain the significant price advantage.

Why Solidarity Financing and what does it mean?

All regular students at our university are part of the student body. Through the semester fee, all students pay a mobility fee and receive the semester ticket. Students form a solidarity community where everyone contributes equally, regardless of how often an individual uses the semester ticket. Therefore, the semester ticket is also called a “Solidarity Ticket,” and the underlying financing is called “Solidarity Financing.”

Solidarity financing allows the semester ticket to be about 80 to 90% cheaper than comparable public transportation tickets in NRW, without external subsidies from the state or federal government. The semester ticket enables affordable and sustainable mobility for all students.

In addition, in cases of financial hardship, individual members can have the mobility fee reimbursed. Students facing financial difficulties can continue to use their ticket without paying for it. This is funded through a hardship fund to which all RWTH students automatically contribute 0.25 euros in the winter semester 23/24 through the semester fee. The Social Committee of the Student Parliament decides on applications for social hardship.

Is it fair for students to pay less than the general public?

Yes! Since the semester ticket is offered in a solidarity model where all students pay the same amount, regardless of how often an individual uses the ticket, it would be legallyunacceptable for students to pay the same price.

The constitutional and administrative courts have justified the legality of solidarity-financed semester tickets, stating that the burden on a member of the student body who does not use the ticket is minimal compared to the benefit gained by the entire student body.

This was true with a semester ticket that cost about one-tenth of comparable tickets. However, with the introduction of the 49-euro ticket, the price advantage of the NRW semester ticket over the 49-euro ticket has become minimal, and the new ticket offers a larger, nationwide scope.

If the semester ticket is not reformed, legal challenges from students are expected after the introduction of the 49-euro ticket, and there is a risk that the ticket could be overturned by courts (see “What if the semester ticket were abolished?”).

In addition to the legal perspective, there can also be arguments from a social perspective: students are structurally tight on money, as most live well below the poverty line of 1,251 euros per month.

What is the difference between the semester ticket and the job ticket?

The fundamental difference lies in the financing. Our demand is that the semester ticket continues to be offered in the solidarity model and its validity is expanded to the whole of Germany. Solidarity model means that all students – as it is now – pay the same amount for the semester ticket. Through this financing method, the semester ticket has so far cost only about one-tenth of comparable tickets. See also “Why solidarity financing and what does that actually mean?”

For the job ticket, the federal government and states have come up with the following solution: employees receive a nationally valid, monthly cancellable job ticket if the employer subsidizes it by at least 25%. Then the federal government adds a subsidy of 5%, and employees can travel throughout Germany for a maximum of 34.30 euros per month.

Students in NRW MUST continue to pay around 35 euros per month (33.61 euros in Aachen) for their NRW semester ticket, while employees CAN buy their job ticket for a maximum of 34.30 euros per month, allowing them to travel throughout Germany. Since employees receive a 5% subsidy for their job ticket, which students do not receive, this is

In the region, there is also a special model: The VRS offers companies with more than 50 employees a Germany Ticket Job Ticket in the solidarity model (short DT JT VRS solidarity model) for the price of 31.85 euros per month. In contrast, over 100,000 Cologne students in the solidarity model pay 33.72 euros per month for their NRW-limited semester ticket. How does that fit together?

What are the problems with the upgrade model, and why is the semester ticket in danger?

A fundamental problem with the upgrade model lies in jeopardizing the acceptance of solidarity basic financing. The introduction of an upgrade raises the question of why individuals who are only traveling within the city and not throughout NRW should not pay only a base price for the city or why individuals who do not use public transport at all should pay a contribution. Compared to the fact that the upgrade is optional, it becomes difficult to justify why the NRW ticket is not optional – because the price advantage in the upgrade model is minimal and does not exceed the previous up to 90%.

The discounted offers with the job ticket also lead to the solidarity model being no longer attractive under the previous conditions, and acceptance among students decreases.

How has the AStA expressed its position so far?

Directly after it was announced in October 2022 that the introduction of a 49-euro ticket was planned, we, as student associations, comprehensively dealt with various models and scenarios for adjusting the NRW semester ticket through the state wide student body meeting (LAT). We had already discussed the various variants extensively and identified the respective problems and advantages at that time.

The LAT’s resolution emerged from this, with the demand to develop the NRW semester ticket into a nationally valid 129-euro semester ticket in the solidarity model. This resolution was published in November as a press release. Furthermore, the AStA has spoken with numerous federal, state, and local politicians, Mayor Sibylle Keupen, NRW Transport Minister Oliver Krischer, as well as many times with transport associations and companies.

With a participatory action and a petition in which tens of thousands of students in NRW participated, we drew attention to the special situation of solidarity-financed semester tickets. Additionally, we have contacted the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV), the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV), the Competence Center Marketing (KCM) NRW, and especially the Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Transport of North Rhine-Westphalia (MUNV NRW).

Furthermore, on the occasion of the Transport Ministers’ Conference in March in Aachen, we took to the streets, conducted press work, and informed the WDR about our situation (see Lokalzeit). We also wrote a resolution for the Aachen City Council, which was supported by all factions and unanimously adopted.

What about the expansion to the Netherlands/Maastricht?

The expansion to the Netherlands/Maastricht can continue in the future – but only if there is also a semester ticket on the German side.

What about apprentices, students, and other young people?

Playing various groups against each other is the wrong approach! The semester ticket shows that affordable, social, and sustainable mobility is possible for everyone. This achievement should not be jeopardized but should be a role model for other user groups.