From 2024 onwards: Bahn wants to completely overhaul the route network

Status: 05/30/2022 1:29 p.m

The railway wants to undergo a general renovation of the route network – with far-reaching consequences. According to the union EVG, customers “will go through a valley of tears”. The punctuality target is already being missed.

Deutsche Bahn has announced a general renovation of important sections of the route. The goal is to set up a “high-performance network,” said CEO Richard Lutz. Rail customers must therefore be prepared for longer closures for construction sites and diversions. The background to this is the goal of significantly expanding rail traffic, while at the same time combating the renovation backlog in the network. “We have to approach this issue more fundamentally and radically,” said Lutz. “Better one big than many small closures.”

From 2024, construction projects should therefore be carried out in a bundle in heavily used railway corridors. Lutz has not yet named any concrete plans. According to him, key points should be presented before the summer break if possible. “We are facing a turning point,” said Lutz. “We have to turn the overloaded infrastructure into a high-performance network.”

The need for modernization will continue to increase in the coming years. “It needs a fundamental, a radical reversal. ‘Keep it up’ is definitely not an alternative,” said Lutz. The renovation will be painful for customers. There will be major diversions.

“It will take years to get better”

The chairman of the railway and transport union (EVG), Klaus-Dieter Hommel, also prepared rail customers for a period of suffering due to the announced renovation: “The rail transport companies and customers will go through a vale of tears.” It will take years before things get better, said Hommel, who is also deputy head of the Deutsche Bahn supervisory board, of the dpa news agency. “But the customers will appreciate that because the situation on the road isn’t getting any better and they are environmentally conscious.”

Hommel called the announcement correct and necessary. He added: “The obsolescence and capacity problems are self-inflicted. Maintenance has been neglected.” This applies not only to branch lines, but also to the 3,500-kilometer-long core network, which bears the brunt of rail traffic. “The core network is a renovation case,” said Hommel. Goals such as doubling the number of passengers and the uniform timetable for Germany are therefore unrealistic.

Punctuality target for 2022 will be missed

But even before the start of the general renovation, Deutsche Bahn is preparing its customers for delays and cancellations due to the increasing number of passengers and freight. The increasing demand meets a backlog in the necessary investments in the network, said Lutz. “We have a dilemma that can hardly be resolved in the short term: to grow and modernize at the same time.” The operating situation is critical, the delays are increasing. “Never before have there been as many construction sites on the German route network as there are today.”

The punctuality target of 80 percent in long-distance traffic will be missed and “significantly away from it,” said Lutz. So far this year, just over 70 percent of long-distance trains have been on time. “It’s not nice, it’s anything but pleasant.” According to Deutsche Bahn’s definition, trains are considered punctual if they arrive less than six minutes after the timetable. Last year, 75 percent of the ICE, Intercity and Eurocity trains were on time.

The passengers and the freight would come back faster than expected after the Corona lull, said Lutz. This applies to an outdated infrastructure that cannot really be renovated with the current construction site management and the necessary expansion of capacity cannot be achieved.

Bahn has sold 2.7 million 9-euro tickets so far

In order to motivate people to travel by train, the federally funded 9-euro ticket will be launched in June. With the ticket, passengers in June, July and August can use local public transport for a month for nine euros. The Deutsche Bahn alone has sold 2.7 million of these tickets so far, said Lutz. “In any case, this shows that the 9-euro ticket is not a slow seller, but a real hit.”

The campaign aims to relieve commuters in the face of high energy prices and win new customers for buses and trains. Promotional tickets are available from all local transport companies.

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