The nine-euro ticket is valid from this Wednesday and the sales figures show that the Germans are looking forward to it. By Tuesday, the cheap ticket had already been sold seven million times. Many people are apparently planning excursions with slow trains for June, July and August.
Excursion mood is also strongly recommended to all buyers. Only those who understand full trains and one or two delays as the special experience of this summer should enjoy journeys with the ticket on beautiful weekends.
Nevertheless, the warnings about total standstill on the rails could turn out to be exaggerated in the end. Many regional trains, for example from Berlin to the Baltic Sea, are packed when the weather is nice, even without a nine-euro ticket. The discount offer only has a reinforcing effect here.
Nevertheless, the heated debate of the past few weeks was important: it showed that trains, buses and trains are not prepared for significantly more passengers – and thus for the traffic turnaround. So far, Transport Minister Volker Wissing has talked a lot about promoting electric cars. Now the focus is finally on strengthening the railways and local transport.
This is also urgently needed. Not even 70 percent of long-distance trains recently reached their destination on time. And there were only so many because hundreds of freight trains were forced to stand still several times. Even before the launch of the nine-euro ticket, German rail traffic could only be stabilized halfway with drastic measures.
The situation in freight transport has been tense since the fall, Deutsche Bahn boss Richard Lutz admitted on Monday. The dilapidated rail network and construction sites hardly allow reliable operation. 80 percent punctual long-distance trains – the railway will certainly miss this already modest goal in 2022.
And it won’t get much better in the years to come. By the end of the decade, Deutsche Bahn AG intends to rehabilitate the country’s busiest routes. The tracks are in the worst condition there. The fact that politicians have invested far too little in maintenance since the 1994 railway reform is now taking its toll. Significantly more passengers and goods on the rails will therefore hardly be possible by 2030 – even if the rail boss promises otherwise.
In order to limit the disruption to operations in terms of time, the main routes are to be renovated in a coordinated manner in one go. However, the former DB infrastructure board member Ronald Pofalla promised that – it was not implemented. Instead, construction sites are repeatedly set up in an uncoordinated manner and one after the other.
Similarly annoying: main and alternative routes are often blocked at the same time. Above all, however, the responsible railway subsidiary often informs too late about its construction projects. Alternative planning is hardly possible for the railway industry and its customers.
However, the current railway chaos is not solely due to the DB Group. But also in the state bureaucracy. There are countless funding pots with around 200 different processes for rail construction. Although the grand coalition had already made record sums available for rail, the renovation backlog has not gotten any smaller, it has gotten bigger.
This over-regulation also prevents smart building. During the renovation, Lutz would like to take a few additional measures to ensure that more trains can run later. Sounds good, but it’s almost impossible: repair and expansion are financed differently.
A major reform that the traffic light coalition wants to tackle could help. A new non-profit company is to be created for the rail infrastructure. It should act largely independently of the rest of the commercially oriented DB Holding. This could eliminate many narrow regulations. Wissing has announced the start of this non-profit rail company for early 2024. It is high time.