2024 Turning Point: Will Germany’s Train Stop the Delay?

German Minister of Transport, Volker Vissing, has affirmed that the end of 2024 will mark a turning point for the railway network in Germany, which has been plagued by recurrent delay issues.

However, the question arises about the feasibility of Deutsche Bahn achieving these changes within just one year.

In fact, the railway network in Germany is suffering from ongoing delays, not only in its daily schedule, but for various reasons as well.

In the first half of 2023, the proportion of trains that arrived on schedule did not exceed two-thirds of the trips. The company reported an on-time arrival rate of no more than 68.7%.

The goal for the entire year is for the on-time arrival percentage to be above 70%.

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Trains in Germany experience significant delays

2024 Turning Point: Will Germany's Trains Finally Stop Delaying?

According to experts, delays extend beyond individual trips, as the railway infrastructure in Germany has been in need of urgent updates for several years.

In a recent interview with the German news agency (DPA), Minister of Transport Volker Vissing indicated that the renovation work on a pivotal railway section will lead to a significant improvement in schedule accuracy by the end of the next year.

And he said:

“Our main highways’ condition is the most pressing issue we are currently dealing with, and once the main route between Frankfurt and Mannheim is renovated, which will be done before the upcoming Christmas, we will have the first high-performance corridor in Germany. From that moment onwards, things will improve.”

The route between Frankfurt and Mannheim has become a major problem point in the German train network, as every seventh train in Germany crosses this congested corridor. This means that issues in this area have a domino effect, disrupting the flow of daily traffic.

Vissing added:

On the road, we now face at least one operational disruption daily, and with over 300 passenger and freight trains per day, this has a significant impact on operations throughout Germany.

In the major project to upgrade the main sections of Germany’s railway network, spanning a distance of 33,000 kilometers, the first step will be the route leading to Riedban.

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From July 15th of next year – after the UEFA European Championship in Germany – the direct route between Frankfurt and Mannheim will be closed for a duration of six months.

During this period, the entire Riedban route will be rebuilt: 152 switches, 140 kilometers of overhead wires, and approximately 117 kilometers of rails.

Fissing said:

“At maximum speed, this will achieve a consistent improvement in schedule accuracy and enhance train operations.”

As for passengers wishing to travel between the main transport hubs during the renovation period, they will need to take alternative routes either via Mainz and Worms from the west or through Darmstadt and Bensheim from the east.

Vissing likened the process of temporarily closing the main routes for renovation to a brief surgical procedure.

He said:

“You have to think of it as if it’s a procedure on a main artery in the body, and you’re closing it off. Therefore, you must have detours in place beforehand, or else it won’t lead to healing but to the collapse of the patient. So now, before we close the primary corridor, we must establish the diversions.”

Simply put, before main lines like Riedban are closed, it was necessary to enhance the secondary lines around them and establish alternative routes for trains.

The ultimate goal is to deliver a high-performance railway network by 2030 after the comprehensive renewal of 40 lines throughout Germany. This signifies that schedule accuracy will improve, but it also means that many trains will be able to operate on the network.

After Riedban, the next phase will involve two main lines: one between Berlin and Hamburg in northern Germany, and another between Emmerich and Oberhausen in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Furthermore, the government is working on a long-term project known as “Deutschlandtakt”: a new timetable aiming to create faster and smoother cross-country transportation.

Specifically, traffic between urban areas will be more tightly coordinated over the long term, with trains operating between major cities every half hour.

These individuals should arrive at the main stations approximately at the same time and depart again shortly after, but this adjusted timetable may not come into effect in the near future.

Fissing said:

“There is no final date for this; we are constantly working on aligning the infrastructure with the timetable’s requirements, and routes are continuously being added in phases. Each phase brings new service leaps and tangible timetable improvements.”

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