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EU plans threaten to break up Deutsche Bahn

Published: 17 Dec 2012 11:37 GMT+01:00

EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas is to unveil a raft of new measures in January that will radically open Europe's rail markets and seriously affect Deutsche Bahn's business, Die Welt newspaper reported on Monday.

Kallas wants to turn Europe into a single large network, abolishing previous monopoly structures.

In the proposal, quoted in the paper, Kallas wrote that the aim was to prevent "conflicts of interest" within network operators, and abolish "the potential for cross-financing that occurs in integrated structures." He believes the move will foster greater efficiency and save European taxpayers €23 billion.

The commissioner is supported by a recent EU survey which found that only 46 percent of Europeans are satisfied with their national rail service, and that trains have the lowest satisfaction ratings of any public transport system.

Deutsche Bahn CEO Rüdiger Grube told Die Welt that resisting Kallas' plans is one of his top priorities. He said the measures would mean that the separation of Germany's rail network ownership and train operations would come in December 2019, four years earlier than previously planned.

The German government has also consistently opposed the plans.

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The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

12:14 December 17, 2012 by pepsionice
After having traveled via a number of European rail systems....I would come to say that the Bahn is the best run system of all. They rarely if ever, run late. The accommodations are generally good (unless in the heat of the summer with the two-star HVAC systems they have). I don't don't think splitting it up would save any money in the long-run.
13:42 December 17, 2012 by Karl_Berlin
It cannot be the case that it is cheaper for me to rent a car, fill it with petrol and drive me and my girlfriend to Jena and back than it is for us to get 2 second-class return train tickets with Bahncard 2 reductions.

Go check out Interconnex to see how much cheaper tickets can be once DB's grip is loosened.
13:44 December 17, 2012 by thinktwice
@pepsionice: I have traveled via a number of railways too, but nowhere have I seen such ridiculous delays and high prices as with DB. The only thing they have better than others are the toilets.

Quoted from "Deutsche Welle" (http://www.dw.de/deutsche-bahn-to-publish-monthly-punctuality-statistics-online/a-15277541)

"A study of 20 German railway stations published by the consumer advocacy group Stiftung Warentest in February found that only 32 percent of long-distance trains arrived on time. To make matters worse, three out of four high-speed ICE trains were delayed."
15:21 December 17, 2012 by LecteurX
Yep, I second comments #2 and 3. Deutsche Bahn is a decent railway operator, but its fares are far too high and the "Leistung" is not that great for the price you pay. France's SNCF or Spain's RENFE generally offer better value for money for routes of comparable sizes as the German long-distance, high-speed lines.

I travel to Cologne from Berlin a couple of times per year and flying there is always considerably cheaper than taking the train (I don't have a BahnCard, but then I'm not entitled to any discounts on flights either). Driving there is longer than taking the train, but also cheaper still. How can that be? I like travelling by train, whether slow or fast. Unfortunately, in Germany it is a luxury I can seldom afford.
15:34 December 17, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
What puzzles me is how DB got away with a monopoly for so long. Freedom to trade within the EU should have meant other train operators can compete for business in Germany. You can be sure if this happened in another EU country the Germans would be complaining about not getting access to these markets.
16:02 December 17, 2012 by JDee
DB own and operate both passenger and extensive freight operations within the UK ( where the rail market is liberated ). Therefore their stance is totally hypocritical.

Generally it should be a good thing, but operators have to be regulated to ensure they meet a minimum requirement of customer service. They should also put in places rules to avoid the fare debacle that exists in the UK.
17:04 December 17, 2012 by Gary K. Taylor
I would never say that the Deutsche Bahn is perfect. Nothing created by human beings is. However, it is a valuable asset to Germany. Margret Thatcher's break-up of British Rail into 9 private companies has been an unmitigated disaster. We will live to regret DB's demise.

Let us consider its strengths and weaknesses. On the plus side, it is making money. It is not a financial black hole for the government. The government only pays for infrastructure improvements such as new high-speed rail lines and station modernizations. An that is not a bad deal for the people. Its cross countrry and international rail service is reasonably good - not perfect - but just ask visitors from countries like the United States, and they will rave about its excellence compared to railroads in most other countries. Many less profitable routes have been successfully transferred Privatbahnen - thereby accutally expanding service to more places than were the case a generation ago.

On the downside, there is an urgent need to restructure train fares so that more people can afford to use the Deutsche Bahn. It would be desireable as well to strengthen the role that Regio Trains play in the DB network. People should be able to travel greater distances (Passau to Nürnberg, München to Stuttgart or Frankfurt, Hannover to Berlin, for example) on the Regios without constantly changing trains.

The Deutsche Bahn is far from being a disaster. It can be easily improved. Moreover, the day is coming when petroleum supplies will be limited, and petroleum prices will be exhorbitant. When it comes to the EU's plans to break-up Deutsche Bahn and other national railways, Germany should just say no.

- Gary K. Taylor
08:42 December 18, 2012 by frankiep
@JDee

DB may be in the UK thanks to the fact that the rail market is "liberated" but that is not the point. I have spent some time traveling around the UK and, of course, Germany. In Germany, my first choice is always to take the train to whichever city I have to go to. In the UK, taking the train is an option that never even crosses my mind.

I have a very bad feeling that the passenger rail system in Germany will turn into a bad joke, like it is in the US, if this proposal goes through. As it stands now, Germany's passenger rail system is one of the best in the world (really). Some improvements can definitely be made, but to scrap the entire organisational structure in favor of something completely different just doesn't make any sense.
11:57 December 18, 2012 by darwiniandemon
Honestly, for the price you pay for the DB, the service is unrealiable, inconsistent, and overall a dreadful experience.

Having moved to Switzerland 1.5 years ago, the SBB/CFF is a clear and perfect example how to run a rail network. Always on-time, clean, and friendly. And a 3 minute delay is really a 3 minute delay. A 5 minute verspätung on the DB can range from 5 minutes delay to the train being cancelled.

Albeit the fare is a little higher, the service is excellent. With a half-tax card, the prices are comparable to DB.
14:02 December 18, 2012 by DocEllis
This would be great news, IF: Prices would come down and available service would expand. More stops longer hours.

DB is not going to like this at all.doc
15:20 December 18, 2012 by franconia
Only the Germans complain, they are World Champion in complaining. Break up DB and you have a Deutsche Amtrak.
08:41 December 19, 2012 by murka
European rail system is ridiculously eclectic, given the relatively short distances. Where are the trains Aberdeen-Athen, Stockholm-Naples, Riga-Lisbon and like? 10 changes you say? Just ridiculous.
17:00 December 19, 2012 by jg.
"DB may be in the UK thanks to the fact that the rail market is "liberated" but that is not the point. I have spent some time traveling around the UK and, of course, Germany. In Germany, my first choice is always to take the train to whichever city I have to go to. In the UK, taking the train is an option that never even crosses my mind."

It is the point. If it was OK to force the UK and other EU member states to liberalise their railways, telecommunications, energy and utility companies - allowing French and German companies to buy them up, then the Germans and French should be made to follow the same rules. The UK is always in the firing line for being such bad Europeans but it is the big two that are evading all the rules and directives that they voted for.
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