One year after the launch of Fokus Bahn NRW, an initiative overseen by the federal state of North-Rhine Westphalia, the state transport minister Hendrik Wüst draws positive conclusions.
The federal state has been providing financial and organisational support to the rail industry for the past year to bring about improvements in local passenger rail travel. NRW now sees positive results: a new control centre in Duisburg has been established where employees from the various train companies work together under one roof. If there are operational disruptions, they can quickly get on the same page and implement the best solution for passengers.
The launch of a joint industry campaign featuring local German singer Guildo Horn has also been a success. It reached 60,000 interested individuals.
Training models that go beyond individual companies help utilise the rail companies’ training capacities more effectively. 13 train operating companies have now signed an agreement to mutually reimburse each other of training costs, which has created new incentives for continual training. The NRW agreement is creating an impulse nationwide and has been taken over by three further federal states.
“When the alliance launched a year ago, the goal was the implement the timetable change of 2019 as smoothly as possible for commuters. The participants have achieved that. I would like to thank them all for that. We've shown: when we all work together to achieve a better local passenger rail service, we're successful. We have to continue on this path.”
A shortage of skilled workers will hit the entire rail industry in the coming years with almost 40 percent of the current workforce reaching retirement age. At the same time the local passenger rail travel is set to grow by around 25 percent over the same timeframe. The rail industry believes it will need more than 1,700 train drivers in the next five years. In order to raise the number of applications coming in long-term, the alliance is explicitly targeting women and migrants.
A Fokus Bahn online survey with almost 1,000 participants revealed that nearly half of the female respondents (47 percent) considered the job of train driver an attractive proposition. However, the actual current percentage of women train drivers is only 4 percent, despite the job offering great opportunities, such as getting back into work at a good wage.
More than 50 highly qualified migrants in the Ruhr Area expressed their interest in becoming train drivers in recent weeks. They’re participating in information events, suitability checks and railway-specific language courses at Fokus Bahn’s partner foundation Stiftung Bildung und Handwerk. A mentoring programme with former train drivers has been put in place to accompany the applicants through the demanding training process.
Fokus Bahn NRW is a programme aimed at improving local rail services in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia and this is something an industry alliance is working on. The alliance, which was established in 2019, includes the Zweckverband Nahverkehr-Rheinland, the Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr and the Zweckverbund Nahverkehr Westfalen-Lippe as well as the local rail operators. The programme has been set up with an initial runtime of three years. In 2020 the transport ministry is supporting it with around one million euros.
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