Mat least three dead, several severely injured people. The terrible news that a regional train derailed near Garmisch-Partenkirchen on Friday afternoon causes sadness and dismay. And it overshadows everything else that’s going on at Deutsche Bahn. The reasons for the accident initially remained unclear.
The tragic accident hits Deutsche Bahn in a situation in which it has fundamental problems that are bigger than they have been for a long time. They are so obvious and so serious that no one bothers to cover them up. On the contrary: in the week of the 9-euro ticket, even before the accident, one negative message followed the next. At the beginning of the week, Bahn boss Richard Lutz started with a hastily scheduled press conference. For a good hour, in a slightly tense voice and with unusual frankness, he admitted failure on the rails and took an oath of disclosure: “We are facing a turning point. Things can’t go on as before.” Lutz announced a “general renovation” with a number of full closures in central corridors in the coming years. The chairman of the railway and transport union EVG, Klaus-Dieter Hommel, described the likely consequences as a “valley of tears” that customers and transport companies would now have to walk through.
On Wednesday, the federal government’s railway commissioner, FDP Secretary of State for Transport Michael Theurer, spoke plainly: “The condition of the network is obviously more dramatic than it has been for years.” Renovation backlog” stated. Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP), always trying to tackle the problems constructively, prefers to comment on the situation at the end of the week like this: “The question is: who dares to tackle the necessary renovation and modernization measures?” he said Friday in an interview with the FAZ podcast for Germany, and then immediately gave the answer: “I dare!” He will soon present a concept with which the existing network can be modernized in such a way that construction sites pose less of a burden on operations.
No more reliance
If there is an advertising message hidden in the sum of the gloomy analyses, then probably one for the new traffic light government, which is not to blame for the misery, but only inherited it, but is now cleaning up all the more courageously. However: In this situation, with a 9-euro ticket, the demand and thus the claims can no longer be explained with daring.
In any case, experienced rail customers have felt it for a long time: the train may be by far the most comfortable means of transport on many routes – it is simply no longer reliable. In long-distance traffic, the rate of officially punctual trains – and Deutsche Bahn calculates this based on a very generous definition of punctuality – is lower than ever before. In view of current values of around 70 percent, Lutz has now officially shelved the 80 percent targeted for 2022. If you want to get to important appointments on time, take an ICE or two earlier. This is not due to customers wandering around the stations without a clue, who are often used as a decisive reason for the delay. Rather, it is the countless construction sites. Construction is already at a record level, for around 14 billion euros in 2022 alone. But the balancing act between building and driving – it doesn’t really want to succeed.