The railroad has a multitude of points of contact with politics such as the Deutsche Bahn in Germany (Read bahnauskunft about Deutsche Bahn here). The federal government is the owner, regulator, and main source of funding. The railways have been an unpopular stepchild in transport policy for many years; hardly any transport minister in the last few decades has shown interest in or committed to the sector. Fortunately, in the current political debate, the railway has moved a little more to the fore.
Recent developments in the management of railways in Germany is going through a strike
The strike called by the train drivers’ union GDL in the wage conflict with the railways is straining the nerves and patience of many travelers. The strike in passenger traffic began on the morning of August 11. It should take 48 hours. The impairments are massive – on both short and long-haul routes.
The system of Financial Control in the Railways
The system for the financial control and promotion of the railways that has emerged in recent years is contradictory: On the one hand, the government has decided to no longer measure DB by profit maximization – nevertheless, the stipulation continues that the train path prices have a “capital market-adequate rate of return” must include. The level of the train path prices is determined in an extremely complex administrative process. These only apply to long-distance transport; the actual prices are determined differently for local rail passenger transport and freight transport. Today, environmentally friendly rail is the only mode of transport that pays emissions taxes (cars should also pay from 2021; there have been no decisions so far for trucks and air transport). On the one hand, the railway is promoted and relieved (including an increase in regionalization funds (RegMittel), capital increase DB), at the same time the government is trying to impose new burdens on companies in the sector by increasing or creating new fees.
Strategies for financial control developed slowly
In addition, strategies are only implemented and developed very slowly. In the master plan for rail freight transport from June 2017, for example, the decline in single wagon traffic was discussed. The topic is also dealt with in the current “Future Alliance” without any concepts on the table. In view of the dramatic situation in the segment, a discussion lasting almost three years with no result is unsatisfactory. The 740 m network was named in the master plan as a “measure to be checked at short notice”. The implementation of the first construction measures (signal relocations) is now in prospect for 2025. However, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) can, if politically wanted, implement projects much faster: Between the decision to equip two test stretches on motorways with overhead lines, and the erection of the first masts only took a few months. Plan approval is required for electrification measures on the railways. Recently, it became known in a project that the examination at the Federal Railway Authority alone took more than three years.