From the point of view of the federal government, the punctuality of Deutsche Bahn trains will only gradually improve due to the dilapidated rail network. The Federal Government Commissioner for Rail Transport, Secretary of State for Transport Michael Theurer, told the German Press Agency: “One can only ask for understanding from the customers of the railways and also ask for forgiveness. As the new government, we have found contaminated sites.” He recommends open and honest communication, said the FDP politician: “The situation is so dramatic that there is no alternative to the general renovation of the network.”
“With the decision of the coalition committee, we want to invest many billions of additional euros in Deutsche Bahn to make up for what has been neglected in the past decades. Because we experience the railway customers as loyal customers who, out of conviction and often also out of responsibility, Take the train, for example, to protect the climate.”
Among other things, the coalition leaders had agreed to use a large part of the billions in revenue from a CO₂ surcharge on truck tolls from 2024 for investments in rail.
Targeted punctuality value of more than 70 percent
In long-distance rail transport, the punctuality rate last year was 65.2 percent, 10 percentage points below the previous year’s level. The reasons given by the railways were the outdated and scarce infrastructure, many construction sites and a rapidly growing volume of traffic. The Group goal for this year is a punctuality value in long-distance transport of more than 70 percent.
A train is considered late in the statistics if it arrives at a stop with a delay of six minutes or more. Train cancellations are not taken into account.
“As the federal government, we have articulated the expectations of management that punctuality must improve noticeably,” said Theurer. Bahn boss Richard Lutz refers to the network, which has to be described as completely overloaded. “Of course, the public sector is also responsible for the network, and we are now doing our job.”
Theurer also referred to decisions by the coalition leaders of the SPD, Greens and FDP to speed up planning: “The decision is a major step forward for rail and an important building block of an entire mosaic. There are also faster administrative court proceedings, digital planning processes and the ramping up of investment funds in connection with the Capacity expansion in the construction and railway industries and the planned corridor rehabilitation. With these different elements we are on the right track.”
Corridor renovations instead of many small construction sites
From his point of view as a rail officer, the continuous increase in investment funds and planning security are crucial. “At the same time, construction capacities must be increased. The funding gap for rail in Germany must be closed.” The first corridor renovations such as the Riedbahn are fully financed.
The state-owned Deutsche Bahn wants to thoroughly renovate dozens of busy sections of track by 2030. For this purpose, so-called corridors are completely closed for around five months and completely renovated and modernized. Instead of just repairing the bare essentials with small construction sites during ongoing operations, everything is done in one go. But then there should be peace for years and the train traffic should flow more reliably. The Riedbahn between Frankfurt and Mannheim will be the first to be completely renovated from mid-2024.
Theurer went on to say that the federal government is sticking to the goal of significantly increasing the market share of rail freight transport by 2030. “There is more demand than can currently be met. We ensure that freight trains no longer linger behind the S-Bahn, but that they can also exploit their system advantages in competition over long distances.” For example, so-called system routes for freight trains are planned. “That will give a real boost to rail freight.”