DB to expand rail network, but associations are not impressed
Deutsche Bahn unfolded its plans to expand its high-density rail network by 5,500 kilometres and reach a total of 9,000 kilometres compared to the 3,500 kilometres currently covered. At the same time, it aims to revamp the existing network with intensive construction works undertaken in a single phase. However, rail associations do not seem impressed by the plans and plead for a more efficient and professional rail network management.
According to DB, the intensity of railway use has increased by more than 60 per cent over the past 28 years. This means that the condition of tracks, signal boxes, railway bridges and switches has deteriorated. Prone to failures, much of the equipment and infrastructure will now have to be renewed and replaced.
Starting from 2024, DB wants to begin the process of track renewal with as much work planned in a single phase, so sections of certain lines will only have to be closed to traffic once. Going forward, the company also wants to increase its annual investment in preventative maintenance by a three-digit million sum. Finally, DB will invest more in diagnostic systems to avoid system errors.
“Stop being a showstopper”
VPI, the German Wagon Keepers Association, did not catch the “bait” presented by DB’s impressive plans and called the company to stop being a “showstopper and become a service provider.” “DB Netz’s poor performance is no longer acceptable. We need an infrastructure operator who sees itself as a service provider for the sector and fulfils this role professionally. This includes coordinated, intelligent construction site planning that includes all players and reduces disruptions to a minimum,” emphasised Malte Lawrenz, chairman of VPI.
Lawrenz added that “if the situation does not improve, we risk losing traffic instead of growing strongly, as politically intended,” and that “DB Netz’s self-image towards the private players in the network must become more cooperative to strengthen the rail system.” VPI did not skimp on criticism towards DB, again underlining that the rail sector does not need big plans but timely coordination and communication as well ass functioning alternatives when disruptions occur.
The rail freight sector was not the only one critical over DB. Mofair, the association of German private passenger operators, responded with scepticism to the plans too. “The supposedly new ‘radical construction’ could already be practised by the DB infrastructure subsidiaries today. The problem is rather poorly organised processes in construction site planning, procurement and communication and above all the profit orientation of the DB infrastructure subsidiaries, which stand in the way of quality orientation today,” said Mofair’s president Tobias Heinemann, also asking for a 20 per cent reduction of track access charges.