The S-Bahn network, currently operated by Deutsche Bahn, will be operated on three different contracts from 2017, bids from which are now being invited from companies across Europe.
The Berlin-Brandenburg transport association (VBB) put an announcement in the Official Journal of the European Union on Monday.
Berlin is hoping not only European but also Asian train operators will show interest in the multi-million euro contract before bids close on October 15 this year, wrote the Tagesspiegel daily on Tuesday. It is also expected that Deutsche Bahn will make a bid.
The move follows the Berlin Senate’s decision in June to split the troubled network into three separate operations once state-run Deutsche Bahn’s operating contract runs out in 2017.
The hope is that competition between prospective operators will drive down the level of subsidy the city-state currently pumps into the system to keep it going, the paper said.
The S-Bahn network – operated separately from the city’s underground trains – stretches from the city centre all the way into the state of Brandenburg. With around 160 stations and 330 kilometres of track, the network currently transports around 1.3 million passengers daily.
It has been plagued by maintenance problems in recent years due to a lack of investment, with problems frequently forcing Deutsche Bahn to scale back the service.
Now the call has gone out for a new operator for the Ring Bahn – which runs around the outside of the city centre – and its feeder lines from the south west, which together receive roughly a third of Berlin’s S-Bahn traffic. Calls for bids on the north-south and east-west lines contracts will be put out separately.
S-Bahn services elsewhere in Germany – including Freiburg and Hamburg – have also been opened up to bids from other operators this year with a view to ending Deutsche Bahn’s monopoly on the networks when current contracts run out in 5 years time.
The new Berlin contract will run for 15 years from 2017 until 2032. Prospective operators are expected to bring with them enough cash to spend up to €1 billion on new train carriages during that period, after the Senate rejected an initial proposal to guarantee 90 percent of the acquisition and production costs.
Critics of the move to put out a tender say only current operator Deutsche Bahn can muster that kind of money and that private railways would have hard time getting the credit, wrote the Berliner Morgenpost on Monday.
Despite a lack of interest from the indebted BVG Berlin Transport Company, which runs the rest of the city’s public transport network, Berlin’s transport senator Michael Müller said he was optimistic that enough operators with the money would show interest, wrote the paper.
Any new operator will be required to take on current S-Bahn employees on the same terms, yet the Union of Railway Workers (EVG) and the Berlin S-Bahn Workers Council are opposed to the call for bids and have raised concerns over job losses and a reduced number of training places.
Meanwhile on Tuesday morning, German Engine Drivers Union (GDL) and state owned railway operator Deutsche Bahn agreed a wage increase settlement for more than 20,000 train drivers nationwide, preventing driver strikes which had threatened to coincide with the summer holiday period.