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Deutsche Bahn ICE woes to last longer than expected

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Deutsche Bahn ICE woes to last longer than expected
Photo: DPA
09:42 CET+01:00
Customers hoping to see fewer crowded Deutsche Bahn trains will have to wait until February 2009 when full service is restored on its high speed lines.

Ultrasound inspections on 70 of the high-tech ICE-T trains will now last until February, not December as reported last week according to a story published Sunday in Bild am Sonntag. With a major portion of the high-speed train fleet consigned to the workshop until inspections are complete, travelers can expect crowded trains and reduced service until February, the paper reported.

The state-owned railway operator has been doing safety checks on the axles of all ICE-T axles since cracks in an axle led to a train derailment in Cologne in July. The T version of the high-speed trains is so named for its tilt technology.

“So long as we don't know the cause of the cracks, then we're going with safety as our top concern,” said Karl Friedrich Rausch, head of the Bahn's passenger travel division, told Bild.

Deutsche Bahn asked manufacturers Siemens and Bombardier to provide reliable guarantees for axles on October 24th. But the companies failed to meet this request, forcing Bahn to test the train's axles instead. The axle manufacturers initially suggested safety checks every 480,000 kilometres, but Bahn is now doing ultrasound checks on the axles every 30,000 kilometres - approximately every three weeks.

Rausch did not rule out demanding damages from Siemens and Bombardier.

The measures have hit train lines connecting several large cities including Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt and Stuttgart, creating delays and crowded conditions.

The safety problems come as Deutsche Bahn comes under harsh criticism by politicians for approving generous bonuses to the company's board ahead of a now-delayed stock market flotation. The company has also been criticized for hiking passenger fares.

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