German rail expansion plan not ready by 2030, ‘could take 50 years’
The German rail industry is quite upset with recent comments made by representatives of the Federal Government regarding the Deutschlandtakt and its timetable, which will synchronise both long-distance, regional train traffic and freight. The German Federal Commissioner for Rail Transport, Michael Theurer, was quoted by German broadcaster ZDF as saying that the Deutschlandtakt is a project that might take over 50 years to realise, whereas the project was planned to be ready by 2030.
With the Deutschlandtakt, the goal is that the largest German cities will be connected by regular long-distance passenger trains every 30 minutes, reliably at the same daily times. The regional traffic will be aligned to the half-hourly clock in the junction stations, so a smooth transfer is assured.
The plan entails a timetable-based expansion of the rail infrastructure in order to optimally network the country. This means a targeted elimination of bottlenecks, route modernisation for faster train traffic or the expansion of important junctions for smooth entry and exit from stations can be planned and prioritised at an early stage, based on the envisioned future timetable. In addition to infrastructure improvements, the timetable should be reached through digital capacity management.
However, the original time horizon of twelve years and the project finished in 2030 was extremely ambitious, and Michael Theurer told ZDF that it was “always very clear that it would take decades”.
Devastating political signal
Sister publication RailFreight.com contacted the rail freight association Die Guterbahnen (NEE), which counts 67 companies as members, for comments. “These statements from the Ministry of Transport are incomprehensible and the political signal is devastating”, said NEE’s executive director Peter Westenberger.
One of the complaints exposed by Westenberger and the NEE is that the current government coalition is not keeping its pledge to significantly improve the German rail network. “The current ruling traffic light coalition promised extensive acceleration steps and a priority expansion of rail in the coalition agreement of December 2021. However, nothing has happened yet”, Westenberger stated. He added that the statement made by Theurer came out of nowhere and may be a sign that the current ruling coalition is no longer supporting the Deutschlandtakt.
In 2016, the the legislature at the time approved the Federal Railroad Expansion Act, which included 180 expansion measures. However, “this ministry prefers to continue and even accelerate highway expansion”, Westenberger claimed. In addition to railway infrastructure enhancement, the Deutschlandtakt also includes the creation of a target timetable for all trains. A new implementation plan is supposed to be drawn up for the period after 2025, which according to Westenberger would cause a revision of the target timetable project. “It is clear that this will still identify additional infrastructure needs”, he concluded.
NEE is not the only rail association that expressed its disappointment in Theurer’s words. Dirk Flege, managing director of the Allianz pro-Schiene (Pro-Rail Alliance), took to LinkedIn to manifest its disapproval. “The extension of the rail network is overdue. It is already very crowded on the rails, both in passenger and freight traffic”, Flege stated. He continued by saying that he expects the federal government to take action to create a mandatory concept for the gradual implementation fo the Deutschlandtakt.