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Why so many trains in Germany are late

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Why so many trains in Germany are late
Photo: DPA
10:49 CEST+02:00
To the rest of the world, Germans have a reputation for being punctual. But when it comes to the country's rail system, passengers experience shocking delays. Here's why.

About 75 percent of long-distance trains in Germany were more than six minutes late last year.

On average 74.9 percent of ICE, Intercity and Eurocity trains reached their destinations on time in 2018, meaning Deutsche Bahn failed to meet its target of 82 percent.

And, compared to the previous year of 78.5 percent, the punctuality rate fell by 3.6 percentage points.

SEE ALSO: How tickets for long distance trains in Germany could become much cheaper

So what's keeping German trains from arriving on time? Construction work plays a big part, with much of the infrastructure in dire need of modernization.

But according to internal reports, the delays are also down to serious congestion in the network, with too much traffic packed onto the railways, reports the Stuttgarter Zeitung.

Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer, of the centre-right Christian Socialist Union, the Bavarian sister party of the CDU, last autumn launched a series of working groups with politicians and industry experts to discuss how to improve the railway system as part of the "Deutschland-Takt" project.

The government is aiming to attract more passengers and goods to the railways by 2030.

On Tuesday, Scheuer, his State Secretary Enak Ferlemann and Richard Lutz, CEO of Deutsche Bahn, will discuss the results of the first report.

The findings, which were viewed by the Stuttgarter Zeitung, show how much work must be done to improve the rail system.

Too much traffic on the railways

The analysis shows that the main cause of trains not arriving on time is the overloaded network, which saw traffic increase by 23 percent between 1999 and 2017. This means that almost a quarter more long-distance, regional, local and freight traffic have to be handled on tracks and at stations nowadays compared to the 90s.

As a result, the western corridor between the Rhine and the Alps, the north-south corridor from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean and the six major hubs of Cologne, Frankfurt, Mannheim, Hanover, Hamburg and Munich are increasingly congested.

A total of 85 percent of rail traffic is packed onto just 60 percent of the network, the report states.

That's because since the 1994 rail reforms, the network has shrunk from 44,600 km to 38,500 km. Less frequented regional lines have been taken out of service over the years.

SEE ALSO: How Deutsche Bahn plans to improve its service and staffing in 2019

The working group says the reduction has reduced operational flexibility. In the event of disruptions, there is now a lack of alternative tracks and reserves that can help with maintaining a good quality of service.

This has a negative effect on punctuality in German rail transport, often causing a domino effect on delays.

The conclusion of the experts was that there were already "congestion effects" and overloads in the network, meaning that the operational quality had fallen and that the expected additional traffic could not be operated in a "quality-compliant" manner.

As more people use trains in Germany, experts want to see bottlenecks addressed and infrastructure improved in order progress with other improvements.

A total of 10 projects deemed the highest priority were named in the report, including six major rail junctions: the new Frankfurt-Mannheim runway, the Rhine-Ruhr Express, the Rhine Valley route Karlsruhe-Basel, the new construction and expansion from Karlsruhe to Molzau, the improved connection of the North Sea ports of Hamburg and Bremen and the modernization of the network for 740-metre freight trains.

 
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