Berlin (dpa) – Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer has spoken out in favor of a new rail reform that explicitly obliges the federal company to meet its climate protection targets.
“We have to think in a new coalition about how the Deutsche Bahn will look in the future,” said the CSU politician of the German news agency. The entry has already been made: «Profit maximization should not have the highest priority. The highest priority for Deutsche Bahn should be climate targets.”
More infrastructure quickly
Scheuer said, “It’s about meeting climate goals through the rail system.” This could also increase the acceptance of new rail lines. “If you have a broad public dialogue and document that you are doing this for the environment, people and the climate, then it becomes clear to citizens: we need the infrastructure – and we need it faster.”
It also involves further digitizing the rail system. “That brings more capacity without having to lay a new meter of track,” explains the minister. “We need digital control and control centers throughout Germany to eliminate the susceptibility to errors. At the moment, a fault in North Rhine-Westphalia can trigger three others in the entire system.” More digitalization also makes it possible to straighten loaded routes.
“Railway Reform 3.0.”
“A train station is now a mobility center,” says Scheuer. “There must be a safe bicycle shed and charging points for electric cars. And a hydrogen filling station that fills the locomotive on the one hand and the regional bus on the other. We now have to think much more strongly in this strategy.”
The railway also has many shareholdings in companies with many structures. “We have to look at that,” Scheuer said. “We need a 3.0 track reform.” This did not happen during this election period because of Corona. The group must now come out of the Corona crisis well.
This will have to be taken into account before mid-2022, but will in any case be laid down in the next coalition agreement. “A company has to keep developing and that’s where the objective comes from.” The minister emphasized: “I am in favor of the fact that we will continue to have Deutsche Bahn as a global logistics officer, with DB Schenker. We are world champions in logistics, we are world champions in export. We need an internationally operating DB AG.”
Years of dispute over DB
In the 2018 coalition agreement, the Union and the SPD agreed to set goals such as increasing rail’s market share in the statutes of Deutsche Bahn and the group subsidiaries for the rail network and stations. The board members must also be obliged to achieve the objectives. This was no longer performed.
The general direction of the transport giant, which has been operating as a limited liability company since 1994, has been under discussion for years. The group’s articles of association have so far generally designated the activities in the various business sectors as the “company object”.
Former stock exchange plans have long been off the table. However, there is criticism of the worldwide transport activities of logistics subsidiary Schenker. Parts of the politicians and rail competitors argue in favor of separating the rail network from the group for more competition. The railroad plays an important role in the federal climate protection program and receives billions for it. The group is investing in new trains, and bottlenecks in the network are being eliminated. Due to the loss of income in the Corona crisis, the railway receives financial support.
Other parties also have plans
Scheuer emphasized: “The decisive factors for passengers are punctuality, cleanliness and quality.” Mobile phone reception in the train also needs to be further improved. “All this ensures that you can not only relax on the ICE, but also work. This creates even more incentive to transfer to the train.”
Other parties also want to promote the switch to rail. The SPD wants a «mobility guarantee»: every citizen – in the city and in the country – must have a connection to public transport close to home. Die Linke wants to introduce a “Sozial-BahnCard” that halves ticket prices. The Greens want to invest 100 billion euros extra in the rail network and train stations by 2035.
FDP calls for privatization
When it comes to the future structure of the track, there are different ideas. The FDP calls for the separation of rail infrastructure and rail transport and privatization of operation. The network must remain the property of the federal government. Goal: more competition. The left wants to align the railway’s company policy with the public interest and ecological sustainability, instead of the balance sheet profit. The transformation of the railway into a public company must be reversed.
The SPD demands that Deutsche Bahn AG focus on its core business of transporting people and goods by rail – and align it with goals that are focused on the common good. The Greens want federal infrastructure to be freed from the pressure to make a profit. The rail group should focus on its core business: rail in Germany and neighboring European countries.