Status: 11/12/2022 02:53 AM
The winter train schedule comes into effect. The company advertises with larger displays and more modern trains. In fact, passenger numbers are increasing. But this also brings the system closer to the limit.
Every half hour from Cologne to Munich, more connections to Frankfurt Airport and more international night trains: these are some of the improvements that Deutsche Bahn is using to announce its winter schedule, which is effective from today. “We have much more seats for more passengers. The number of trains is increasing, the number of seats is increasing,” says Deutsche Bahn spokesman Achim Staus.
With the deadline, the company believes it is one step closer to its main goal: the “Deutschlandtakt”. This is the name for the idea of a national schedule in which all important communications are coordinated. Picture Germany where travelers largely dispense with planes and cars because the train runs at a speed suitable for a connecting train – and almost always on time. The railway wants to get closer to this ideal state little by little. Passenger numbers should double by 2030, and DeutschlandTacht’s vision must become a reality.
At present, only railways can offer projects such as the new Wendlingen-Ulm line. There are now two trains per hour each way between Cologne and Munich. For Stauss, “another step in the direction” of the Deutschlandtakt. And you get to your destination 15 minutes faster.”
The network has almost reached its limit
Carl Peter Naumann of the Pro Bahn passenger association also sees the winter schedule as largely positive: “There are many small improvements.” The steps of the train went in the right direction. “But some improvements degrade others. Almost the entire network is used. A good example is the RE2 between Berlin and Cottbus. It stops more – but it’s also slower.” This changes RE2 access times.
The result: Commuters – at an annoyingly close distance – miss the next train. “If they want to enter from the west, they only see the tail lights,” says Nauman.
The example shows the curbs in which the railway is stuck. The network is almost full, each change must be carefully considered. Simply sending more trains onto the road isn’t so easy – it can quickly overload an already tight schedule. In addition, trains must be ordered years in advance, workshops must be equipped, and personnel trained.
Small steps, not miracles
Naumann, a member of the passenger lobby, knows that miracles cannot be expected from the state-owned company: “The railways do it as best as possible.” He also understands the delays caused by many construction sites: “If you haven’t invested enough in infrastructure for 20 or 30 years, it has to be brutally reworked now.”
Staus also acknowledges that the network can’t take more traffic: “We want to get the most out of the infrastructure, and that’s what we built it for.” Much more than what the company is currently going for is not possible. Railways are increasingly popular. This almost becomes a problem. “In the summer and fall we had more passengers on long-distance transportation than we did before the pandemic,” Staus says. “Our network has not developed as much as rail traffic in recent years. Rail centers such as Hamburg and Cologne or routes through the Ruhr area are sometimes used at over 100 percent.”
More railway customers, more construction work
There are many reasons for the growing popularity: more people are vacationing in Germany, Deutsche Bahn has bought new, more attractive trains and made fares more flexible. In addition, the railway’s environmentally friendly image fits into the zeitgeist. “We see it very clearly in the numbers and also in the customer surveys,” Staus says.
In order to meet the demand – and get closer to the “Deutschlandtact” dream as quickly as possible – Deutsche Bahn wants to take drastic action. In the future, all important roads will be hastily renovated. After that, it should be usable for years without needing repair. The Frankfurt-Mannheim route is scheduled to start in 2024. The problem: the entire route has to be closed for a few months due to extensive construction work.
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