Germany: Private Railway Undertakings to Seek EU Help

Following the approval by the federal budget committee to provide further ‘rescue measures’ to Deutsche Bahn, mofair and the Network of European Railways (NEE) voiced their criticism.

In an argument that has been building up all week, private railway undertakings in Germany are angry that the German state is focusing its assistance measures on Deutsche Bahn alone, leaving private passenger and freight operators to deal with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic alone. This, they point out, skews the competitive market, putting Deutsche Bahn at an unfair advantage.

Private freight operator Captrain
Locomotive of private rail freight operator Captrain

This exclusive agreement between the German government and the state-owned Deutsche Bahn was proof, mofair director Matthias Stoffregen said, that the government put railway undertakings in two separate classes.

Matthias Stoffregen:

“While the employees at DB are given protection from dismissal, our employees are abandoned in this crisis.”

Both mofair and NEE said they would get the European Commission involved and insist on state-aid rules being upheld.

Germany’s private railway undertakings have already lamented the fact that there is a lack of transparency in what the funds for Deutsche Bahn are for: for example, are they truly for coronavirus-related damage caused or also for the removal of structural weaknesses in the company?

Both organisations point out that the German rail market opened up to competition in 1994. The government should not, they stress, treat Deutsche Bahn as the national operator, dismissing the positive experiences that have come from introducing competition in the rail sector.

NEE chairperson Ludolf Kerkeling called it ‘regrettable’ that the government was choosing to drive a wedge into the industry by giving preferential treatment to Deutsche Bahn at this time when the coronavirus pandemic was an extreme burden for employees and railway undertakings.

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