When it comes to Deutsche Bahn, nerves are quickly on edge. Two small events from the past few days could not document it better: A school class makes its way from Berlin to Paris on Monday – by train, because of the climate. The transfer time in Mannheim is 11 minutes. In a teenage life, that's about 33 Tiktoks – half an eternity. In times of railway chaos, it is a blink of an eye. What 11 minutes means is clear to everyone involved, including the teacher duo, even before the start of the journey: Due to the almost inevitable delay, the connecting train will not be reachable, which means hours of loitering around the Mannheim station, followed by a chaotic onward journey without a reservation and a nightly arrival in Paris. A timely arrival in Mannheim? Completely unthinkable.
Business correspondent in Berlin.
- Follow I follow
The second event is making much bigger waves: The "Deutschlandtakt", allegedly planned for the year 2030, will be "postponed" to 2070, i.e. by a whopping 40 years, it was said at the end of last week in some press releases with reference to the rail commissioner of the Federal Government, Michael Theurer. Although probably not many rail customers are likely to have fully penetrated the sophisticated concept of the "Deutschlandtakt", it is also clear to everyone what this means: Two generations of rail customers will not experience a functioning railway, so it is said. The reactions from the industry are also sharp: "These statements from the Ministry of Transport are incomprehensible, and the political signal is devastating," reprimands the association Die Güterbahnen, a network of European railways.
The Deutschlandtakt as a project of the century
The denial and appeasement of the Federal Ministry of Transport in response to an unfortunate quote, the reference to the upcoming general renovation of the rail network and the work of the much-praised Rail Acceleration Commission are completely lost in the general outrage over the neglected railway. It is important to know that the Deutschlandtakt is nothing less than a paradigm shift in long-term infrastructure planning and will be implemented in several stages, some short-term, others long-term, which is why Theurer calls it a "project of the century". Each stage brings new improvements for customers, the Federal Ministry of Transport clarifies somewhat helplessly. But the decisive factor in the report on the Deutschlandtakt is not that it is misleading, but rather that anyone who travels by train from time to time can imagine it pictorially: A notoriously unreliable train service until 2070 – and neither the company nor politics do anything about it.
The bizarre thing about it is that the public outrage over the conditions of Deutsche Bahn reaches its peak just at the moment when more is happening on Germany's railways than it has been for decades. The inefficient construction site management will be transformed into a coordinated procedure, bureaucracy will be streamlined and an extensive restructuring of the Group will be prepared, at the end of which a "public welfare-oriented infrastructure company" will be in place at the beginning of next year.