Retrofitting abandoned railways could reconnect hundreds of German towns

Retrofitting abandoned railways could reconnect hundreds of German towns

Germany's Pro-Rail Alliance has said revitalising abandoned railways may be the hidden answer to the transport revolution the country needs - but the policy needs to pick up speed.

Train track reactivation would reconnect 332 towns and cities

The Association of German Transport Companies (VDV) has published an updated brochure which outlines how retrofitting and reactivating 280 disused train tracks reaching 4.600 kilometres across Germany could help to reconnect 332 towns and cities to the country’s vast web of train lines.

Following the nationwide success and popularity of the 9-euro ticket policy during the summer months, it is clear that people in Germany are eager to use rail services. “The willingness to use rail is there,” Dirk Flege, managing director of the Pro-Rail Alliance, told Tagesschau, “and the potential for more rail traffic is enormous. People rightly expect rapid expansion - even in places where there is no rail connection today."

Germany’s coalition agreement promised to reactivate rail tracks

Reactivating Germany’s abandoned railways in order to reconnect hundreds of thousands of people to the country’s rail system was a promise laid out in the government’s “traffic light” coalition agreement almost a year ago. But since then “not a single kilometre of train track has been reactivated," Flege told Tagesschau. Flege’s Pro-Rail Alliance is demanding decommissioned rail lines be reactivated immediately. 

According to Flege, one reason given for the delay of the abandoned rail line reactivation is that local government and federal states have been waiting for legal justification based on the cost versus benefit calculation.

Flege still hopes that some lines, specifically one-kilometre stretches in Brandenburg and Lower Saxony, will be reactivated ahead of timetable changes in December, “But we also only expected further single-digit kilometre stretches of lines to be reactivated in December,” he added. For years the Pro-Rail Alliance has been critical of the German government’s sluggish pace when it comes to taking action on reactivating disused lines.

Germany’s railway system is due to renovated by 2030, with 19 billion euros to be invested in new locomotives. Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing of the Free Democratic Party has said that the renovations will be a top priority come the summer.

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan

Editor for Germany at IamExpat Media. Olivia first came to Germany in 2013 to work as an Au Pair. Since studying English Literature and German in Scotland, Freiburg and Berlin...

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