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Heat wave causes AC meltdown on 50 trains

DDP/The Local · 16 Jul 2010, 11:16

Published: 16 Jul 2010 11:16 GMT+02:00

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Greens MP Winfried Hermann, who is also chairman of the Bundestag’s transport committee, told the Passauer Neue Presse that rail operator Deutsche Bahn urgently needed to overhaul its trains. New trains should be fitted with more powerful air conditioners and the old rolling stock modernised, he said.

“One consequence has to be that new trains are designed for higher temperatures,” he said. “The air conditioners must be able to cope with outside temperatures of up to 45 degrees. You also have to expect greater extremes of cold.”

The revelation follows widespread condemnation of Deutsche Bahn over an incident last weekend in which the air conditioning system broke down on a high-speed ICE train, sending temperatures soaring to as much as 50 degrees Celsius. Federal police are investigating the incident, which put nine people in hospital, to see whether train staff acted negligently.

Deutsche Bahn boss Rüdiger Grube said he could not rule out further AC breakdowns in the coming days when temperatures are expected frequently to reach well above 30 degrees Celsius. On Thursday it was revealed that the air conditioning systems are only built to cope with temperatures of up to 32 degrees.

“We are making every effort that such things don’t happen,” he told broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, but added that he couldn’t make promises in “such extreme weather conditions.”

Grube added that an overhaul of the trains’ cooling systems was being examined. The older ICE models would be equipped with new cooling units that could cope with higher temperatures.

The general overhaul of the ICE II models would begin in the second half of the year, he said.

Replacing the air conditioner units had not previously been considered because there had not been conspicuous problems, he said – though this was naturally now being reviewed.

“We are analysing whether it wouldn’t be better to also rework the corresponding air conditioners,” he said.

Grube hit back at accusations the rail operator had cut back on maintenance and servicing in preparation for going public on the share market. Purchases of materials for long-distance trains had risen from €298 million to €405 million from 2004 to 2009, while maintenance staffing costs had been lifted from €84 million to €96 million over the same period, he said.

Story continues below…

“Of course there is no excuse here,” Grube said, adding that the failures were “not acceptable.”

Nevertheless, the operator was following international standards in the way it had equipped its trains, he said.

Click here for The Local's weather forecast.

DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

11:46 July 16, 2010 by pepsionice
The simple answer here...shut down all Bahn around noon each day and just wait until September to run a full schedule.
11:59 July 16, 2010 by JAMessersmith
I thought Germany was one of the most high-tec countries in the world? How do countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan run anything at all if the great Deutschland can't even keep their AC on when it gets hot? Try running public transportation in Phoenix in the summer, if you think it gets hot in Germania... my buddy told me it was 105º out there today (which I have no idea is how hot in celsius... probably something like 4 or 5 degrees)...
12:12 July 16, 2010 by Kanji
This conclude that DB trains were not develop to work under extended temperature environment due to cost. That why during winter and summer time, DB is chaotic.

But hey, you been increasing price like hell.
12:38 July 16, 2010 by Frenemy
JAMessersmith is correct. There is absolutely no excuse for this. Germany probably has the most technically advanced civilian-critical infrastructure in the world (equal to or maybe second to Japan).

@Kanji: if this is what the DB/Deutsche Regierung calls "cost-saving"/frugality, I think they really need to re-evaluate their policies (cuz it seems more like penny-pinching to me)...
13:00 July 16, 2010 by freechoice
the latest ICE looks awesome and spanking...like a spaceship with wheels...

aber keine Klima?? Schade...
13:40 July 16, 2010 by Dashcroft
freechoice: You do know that 'a spaceship on wheels' is actually a step back, don't you? :-)
14:50 July 16, 2010 by Jimberlin
How can DB and Siemens sell trains in Middle East when all is not well back home?

Also I had to cross 4 coaches to find a working toilet in Berlin Frankfurt ICE...
15:59 July 16, 2010 by MHmedia
That's interesting .. back in 2004, our regional train company invested in a lot of new trains, coincidentally manufactured by Siemens. Despite the fact that they seemed to settle in well, the hot summer that year caused major problems with not onlty the aircon, but the doors, some of which decided not to open, or close, seemingly at will.
16:05 July 16, 2010 by mikecowler
They,ll be selling DB of next ha ha ha
16:48 July 16, 2010 by mohanmurti
Deutsche Bahn is faking the "A.C.breakdown" bit.

I know from a former DB friend that there is an internal memo that all DB trains "must switch off airconditioning" by 60% in all trains to accumulate carbon credits & reduce greenhouse gas emmissions.
17:38 July 16, 2010 by trilliium
Hot summers will become more and more common. The challenge is how to provide A/C without making the planet even hotter. But this approach is simply penny-wise and pound-foolish; offing your customers is, we can all agree, not a cost-saving measure.
20:27 July 16, 2010 by farfeldanmark
above 30 degrees Celsius is "brutal heat"?

wow, you guys are wimps! last week temps in NYC reached 40 for a couple of days, and a normal heat wave there is around 32-35 degrees, lasting far longer than anything Germany ever experiences...

get with the program...
22:59 July 16, 2010 by mikecowler
I,m a high speed diesel train driver for a private rail company in th UK..i know that if an ac unit tries cooling something it can the unit if fitted wth a micro circuit breaker will trip to protect the unit from catching fire....i read with interest that they were setting the thermostats to 27c which may keep temperatures around 32c..This makes sense as the ac unit won,t trip out..

Our train companies are all about profit now...these kind of problems would be excused as adverse and no extra money would be spent to rectify this problem, unless it was stipulated by the Governments Rail regulator under a new franchise deal...Our Health and Safety would on make recomendations....recomendations are not mandatory enforcements...
07:38 July 17, 2010 by MichaSeifert-Weiss
Back here in Perth, Western Australia, our 'spiffy' trains almost cease to operate if it rains or temperatures reach 40C! Apparently the tracks become too much for the trains to cope with and our system, quite small as it is, comes almost 'off the rails.' This is consistent and as we regularly have temps above 45C, this slows us all down more than even Perth folk like. One aircon malfunction hardly means the ICE trains aren't good enough, it just means that a little attention has to be paid to the aircon systems.
04:30 July 20, 2010 by LivinPA
I read about this and consider how spoiled we must be in the US. I'm in contact with the mother of our new foreign exchange student who lives in Berlin and apparently there is no AC in the office where she works, and the only one she has is in the car. I guess that is normal for Germany but it's hard to imagine considering there is AC at pretty much any public place I've been to in the US and in most homes. Heck, we have an AC unit on every floor of the house. I guess we're not contributing to any "green" incentives =\. But anyways, that's pretty amazing to read about issues in trains like this with such an advanced country as Germany -- as someone earlier stated. Hope they fix em up for you, I can't imagine it'd be fun to ride around in an oven you can't get out of.
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