How is Germany planning on renovating its railway network?
Last week, Germany’s transport minister and the CEO of Deutsche Bahn announced that the federal republic will push on with overhauling its railway network. But what precisely are the issues with the network currently, and how does the government plan to improve it?
The problems with Germany’s railways
On Wednesday in Berlin, German Transport Minister Volker Wissing and Deutsche Bahn boss Richard Lutz announced that Germany will begin overhauling its railway network in 2024. Wissing said that the country’s rail network had been neglected and plagued with issues for years, including outdated rail points and signal boxes, causing endless delays. Wissing blamed “political neglect and underfunding” for the current state of the rail network in Germany. "It cannot stay the way it is," he said.
Lutz agreed with this sentiment and blamed old infrastructure and construction work for “traffic jams and delays with a massive impact on all customers.” Lutz also pointed to increased demand as another reason for train delays, stating that 51.000 trains travel through Germany every day, a number that is expected to increase to 59.000 by 2030. According to Lutz, around 3.500 kilometres of rail - around 10 percent of Germany’s entire network - are heavily used and operating at 125 percent capacity. The DB boss expects the heavily used sections of the railway to increase to a total of 9.000 kilometres by 2030.
Punctuality is also an issue for Germany’s rail system. This year, only 62,7 percent of long-distance trains arrived within five minutes of the scheduled time. Public transport in general is also significantly affected by this issue, with only four in five ICE, EC and IC trains being delayed less than five minutes – this means 20 percent of trains are 15 minutes late or more.
Three criteria for general rail renovation
Three criteria have been set for the general renovation of Germany’s rail network:
- The first criterion is that all planned construction work in the future will be bundled together on a regional scale, so that sections of rail can be kept free from construction for years, thereby reducing delays and closures.
- Secondly, the upgrading and modernisation of equipment and infrastructure will take place at the same time as standard repairs, so that busy sections of track have a “first-class standard of equipment”.
- The final criterion is that any construction that does take place will be optimised in a more “customer-friendly” way.
The rail bosses will also target heavily used sections of the network and turn them into a “high-performance network”. This will become the benchmark in terms of quality and stability for the rest of the network.