Explained: How Germany is renovating its 'ailing' rail network
Germany’s government and its Deutsche Bahn train company are planning to invest €86 billion into the run-down train network over the next 10 years as part of a joint agreement.
The injection of funding into the state-run train company is intended to modernize its ageing infrastructure, improve punctuality, and meet environmental targets.
The newly-announced funding, however, is just reserved for refurbishing and renovating existing infrastructure rather than constructing new train lines.
However, the company has already announced that five percent more ICE trains - at least 225 a day - will be ready for service in 2019 compared to the previous year.
Preparing for more passengers
The move comes amid projections of rapidly increasing ridership: by 2030, the number of passengers - currently 12.8 million per day - is projected to double.
Many of the tracks along the 33,000 kilometre long network will be replaced as part of the plan. Their age accounts for delays: in the first six months of 2019, one in five trains arrived late, reported DPA, slightly more than in the first half of 2018.
A major part of the upgrade will include renovating 2,000 ageing railway bridges within the next 10 years, including 875 in 2019 alone.
Deutsche Bahn is also in the process of refurbishing both of its first high-speed (ICE) rail tracks.
Nearly 30 years after the launch of first ICE routes, Hanover-Würzburg and Mannheim-Stuttgart, the group will undertake a complete renovation of these connections. The Hanover-Göttingen route will be closed until December 14th.
ICE-passengers travelling between North and South Germany, as well as Berlin and Frankfurt/Main, must prepare for 30 to 40 minutes longer journey times, which have already been incorporated into timetables.
The trains will continue to run along conventional routes whilst the renovations are completed, meaning there will be interruptions and adjustments.
Environmental concerns also play a big role in the Deutsche Bahn renovation, especially as the group tries to meet stricter EU-wide emissions targets.
By the end of 2019, 60 percent of Deutsche Bahn's electricity will be covered by renewable energies, the company has said.
Germany’s governing black-red coalition has also made it their plan to strengthen rail service, especially in light of new carbon dioxide emission goals.
On September 20th, the newly-created “Climate Cabinet” will meet to publish a packet of goals on how to meet 2030 climate targets, with rail travel playing a big role.
High on the agenda
Train travel is high on the political agenda at the moment as Germany tries to reduce it's CO2 omissions to tackle the climate crisis.
Germany's environment minister wants to add a carbon tax to domestic flights - similar to the ones which countries such as France and Sweden have already implemented - in order to cut emissions and incentivize train travel.
Germany’s Green Party also called on improving train services earlier this week in an effort to replace domestic plane travel with rail travel. They are pushing for cheaper tickets, more trains and more reliable timetables.
The goal must be to reduce the travel time between as many places as possible in Germany and neighbouring countries to "a maximum of four hours", the Greens said.
In many places, bottlenecks would have to be eliminated quickly, said the Greens. They also called on more trains in the morning and evening rush hours to make train travel more attractive to commuters as well.
Germany-wide Friday for Future demos have also called for boosting train travel in a push to reduce carbon emissions. The teenage initiator of the worldwide protest movement, Greta Thunberg, often travels to demonstrations in Germany - and those throughout Europe - by train.