Marshalling Yard in Germany. Source: mirokola/Pixabay

More trains arrive late in Germany in 2021 due to floods, strikes and works

Marshalling Yard in Germany. Source: mirokola/Pixabay

A quarter of long-distance trains in Germany did not arrive on time in 2021. According to Deutsche Bahn, a combination of rail strikes, corona lockdowns and floods are the culprit. 

Last year marked a significant drop in punctuality of long-distance trains in Germany. 75.2 per cent of all long-distance trains reached their destination on time in 2021. The year before that, 81.8 percent of these ICE and IC / EC trains were on time, which Deutsche Bahn then called the most punctual in 15 years. That increase in punctuality appears to have been for short notice, as last year’s average is back at the level of 2019.

Disruptive factors

Of all trains of Deutsche Bahn, the punctuality is a lot higher with 93,8 percent being no more than 6 minutes too late on average. This includes all traffic stops of the more than 20,000 monthly journeys in long-distance transport and the approximately 780,000 monthly journeys in local transport, including S-Bahn trains.

Disruptive factors of historic proportions had a massive impact on punctuality last year. According to the German railways, the main reasons are threefold.

Lockdowns, strikes and flooding

As a first reason, DB names that in the course of the corona lockdowns, the transport offer on the railways was repeatedly brought down and then up again. As a result, there were frequent disruptions at the interfaces between old and new timetables. Remarkably, when the punctuality rose in 2020, DB assigned half of the increase to corona. Fewer passengers reduced the stopping times at the stations, and the route network was less stressed.

The flooding that took place last year’s July is a second reason for last year’s drop, says DB. The damage in general – and to rail infrastructure – was concentrated in a region in the west of the country. Especially the Ahr Valley Railway, where only DB regio trains run on the non-electrified tracks, which have little impact on the country’s long-distance trains.

As a third reason, DB had to endure one of its toughest collective disputes in its history. Three waves of strikes repeatedly disrupted rail operations, during which long-distance trains were largely reduced. The punctuality of long-distance trains was the lowest between September and November of the last year.

Infrastructure works

At the same time, large infrastructure works also had an impact on the German railway network. According to the operator, in 2021, they built, invested and modernised the rail network more than ever before. This had a particularly negative impact in the highly frequented bottlenecks of their network. It likely is also a reason for the decrease in punctuality.

Last December, rail freight companies and associations rang the bell saying that rail freight in and travelling through Germany was coming to ‘a near standstil’ due to intensive construction works as a result of a backlog of investments.

Author: Esther Geerts

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