Warning for transport minister in Germany: business as usual not appropriate “People are expecting a concept for rail transport”

Following the annual discussion about the quality of the railways in winter, the German Pro-Rail Alliance is demanding that federal transport minister, Peter Ramsauer (from the CSU), does not simply “go back to business as usual”. It may be “exceptionally remarkable” that Ramsauer, as the minister responsible for the state owned railways Deutsche Bahn AG, should denounce the “years of austerity and the pressure to make a profit”. But looking back at the past is not enough. “What people are now expecting is a government concept setting out its vision for the future of rail transport and the government’s role in it,” said the managing director of the Pro-Rail Alliance on Tuesday in Berlin.

This is not an issue that “can be sorted out in informal talks between the ministry and Deutsche Bahn”. Flege: “What society needs is a broad debate about what public transport should look like in the coming decades. That is not an issue that politicians can delegate to the stock exchange. Passenger groups and environmental organisations most certainly have to be involved.”

The debate must also include “an honest review of 15 years of railway reform”. The Pro-Rail Alliance managing director pointed out that the reform of the railways in 1994 was linked with two main goals: apart from reducing the burden on the budget, the reform was about shifting transport onto trains. “To date, there is still no concrete strategy for strengthening the railways,” criticised Flege. The only concept that exists is for freight transport, contained in the grand coalition’s ‘Master-plan for Freight Transport and Logistics’. “For rail passenger transport, the government has no goals, no vision and no strategy”, said the transport alliance’s managing director.

The Pro-Rail Alliance believes that preliminary ideas developed within the railway sector and by passenger groups can be built upon. “The rail network concepts ‘Netz 21’ and ‘Deutschland-Takt’ are two approaches that are worth looking at as part of broader discussions for an overall concept,” said Flege


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