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'DAC is a game changer for the rail freight urgently needed out of different perspectives,' says Richard Lutz, CEO of DB AG

'DAC is a game changer for the rail freight urgently needed out of different perspectives,' says Richard Lutz, CEO of DB AG
photo: RAILTARGET/'DAC is a game changer for the rail freight urgently needed out of different perspectives,' says Richard Lutz, CEO of DB AG
08 / 02 / 2023

At the 2023 European Railway Award that took place in Brussels, RAILTARGET's editorial team was lucky to meet Richard Lutz, CEO of Deutsche Bahn AG. In the interview, he spoke about the challenges the railway sector faced in 2022 and the ones awaiting in the upcoming years, as well as about the DAC's contribution to the competitiveness of rail freight.

How do you evaluate today's European Railway Awards?

It was a very positive event today in the evening, and Ukrainian Railways really deserved their Railway Award because so many feel so much with them. It's very important for democracy, free speech and standing up against Russian aggression. We stand with Ukraine with help and solidarity, and that was a message we gave to the Ukrainian people and our colleagues, and workers at Ukrainian Railways. That was a very touching and moving moment.

If you had to look back briefly at 2022, what year was it for the railways?

It was a challenging year. I guess it is fair to say that at least the COVID-19 crisis hit us hard in terms of revenue and topline, but it's more or less over. The demand is coming back, people want to travel by trail, and companies want to shift their goods to rail, which is positive because of the climate issue, and it is giving us a lot of tailwinds, so to say. But after the war in Ukraine, there are multiple additional crises. The energy crisis is really hitting up, inflation is coming high, and other European railways stand up to that challenge and try to contribute in terms of affordability for the people. We try to contribute to the most pressing problems of society, not only in our member states but all over Europe and worldwide. That's a good feeling that we can contribute to what's lying ahead of us in terms of challenges.

On the other hand, what are the challenges for the railways in 2023?

2023 and the coming years, probably, because if you're in the railway industry, you always need to think strategically and sustainably in long term. It was discussed in the evening as well, and at the end of the day, we need to build on the infrastructure. It's all about digitalization and capacity, and that's pretty much a challenge all over the place in Europe, having more integration of different member states and countries, especially of different transport modes, because we can't solve all the problems on our own since we need to have a better intermodality between different transport modes. It's about digitalization in the infrastructure, operation and, of course, interface for a customer.

My last question is related to digitalization and connected with the DAC. What do you think about this project for the railway sector and its funding?

Digital Automatic Coupling is a game changer for the rail freight urgently needed out of different perspectives. It contributes to the competitiveness of the rail freight business compared to other transport modes. It tackles, in a way, the attractiveness of the jobs. We are talking about demographic change. And going forward, we need to solve the financing problem. It's a common issue on the European level, the member states level and, of course, the railway undertakings. But at the end of the day, I've never been so positive that we can really fix the issue if we all focus on the right things that need to be decided in the coming months. For the very first time, it's clear on the European level that they need to contribute. It's a very positive message for rail freight in this field, especially which needs to be done on the European scale because otherwise, it doesn't make much sense. It must be a European solution.


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