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DB aims to make railroads suitable for growth and modal shift. What does the new concept include?

DB aims to make railroads suitable for growth and modal shift. What does the new concept include?
photo: Deutsche Bahn AG/DB aims to make railroads suitable for growth and modal shift. What does the new concept include?
02 / 06 / 2022

DB CEO Dr Richard Lutz has called for a paradigm shift in infrastructure in the face of sharply rising demand for passenger and freight transport and a rail network that is both highly congested and prone to disruptions. In a telephone press conference in Berlin on Monday, he described the rehabilitation of the rail network as a central task in the coming years.

Lutz mentioned interview remarks by Federal Transport Minister Dr Volker Wissing over the weekend, who had referred to the common goal of a high-performance network. Concerning the conceptual considerations, one is in close exchange with the BMDV, said Lutz. The details of the concept and the concrete implementation steps in the next few years are to be tackled in close cooperation between the federal government, the railroads and the entire industry. The goal, he said, is to create a public welfare-oriented infrastructure from a single source. Lutz: "For me, an infrastructure geared to the common good means, above all, alignment with the transport and climate policy goals of the German government. DB has adopted these goals as part of its Strong Rail strategy, and the industry as a whole has adopted them as part of the Rail Transport Master Plan. The key to the successful implementation of these goals lies in the infrastructure." Ideally, the first key points of the concept should be presented together before the summer break.

Lutz referred to current developments in the transport markets, according to which passengers and freight customers are encouragingly returning to rail faster than expected. "The current demand confirms our fundamental conviction that the German government's growth and modal shift targets are realistic." Never before have there been so many trains on the German network as these days. However, the route network on which this increasing demand is handled has not grown in line with it. At the same time, the substance of the network has deteriorated further because many facilities are outdated and, therefore, prone to breakdowns. The federal government and the railroads have been making changes for some years now. However, the truth is that this modernization program has resulted in an unprecedented number of construction sites, which cost additional capacity and have massive operational and traffic impacts.

Lutz continued: "The current operating situation shows as clearly as it does painfully that we have a dilemma that is almost impossible to resolve in the short term: Growing and modernizing at the same time is no longer possible with good operating quality and punctuality on too many days and too many corridors. The massive impact will be felt by all rail transport companies and thus also by all passengers, task managers and freight customers. We are aware of this." He added that Deutsche Bahn was doing everything it could to minimize the negative impact on transport companies and customers in passenger and freight transport. Lutz thanked all railroad employees in the operational area, in particular, for their tireless efforts. In the interests of everyone, he said, a fundamental change of direction was now needed and work needed to be done on sustainable solutions that would address the problem at its core. A "business as usual" is not an alternative.

According to Lutz, one such sustainable solution lies in the infrastructure. According to him, it is critical to success not only for growth and modal shift but also for operational quality and punctuality. "Eighty per cent of the quality of the rail system is decided on the rail network. The current rail reliability and quality problems as a mode of transport are essentially capacity and obsolescence problems in the infrastructure."

"It applies in particular to the highly loaded network of currently around 3,500 route kilometres, where average capacity utilization is already around 125 per cent without construction activities and can quickly rise to well over 150 per cent in the event of construction work." To make the rail network fit for growth and modal shift, he said, the highly congested network, in particular, needs to be developed into a high-performance network - with permanent and sustainable improvements to all trades relevant to punctuality.

According to Lutz, implementation essentially involves a general overhaul of the highly congested corridors. All the necessary construction measures for the coming years are to be bundled together. Although this would require longer closure periods, these would go hand in hand with greater reliability and longer lead times for all parties involved due to better planning. The important thing is that once the corridor measures have been implemented, there will be no need for construction work for several years, which will have a positive impact on capacity and quality throughout the entire network. The concretization of these concepts should become part of the joint work of the federal government, the railroads and the industry.


Source: Deutsche Bahn Press Releases