Germany Hosts Rail Summit | Focus on Digitalisation

On 7 May the German Federal Ministry for Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) hosted a rail summit where it presented an interim report on the ‘Zukunftsbündnis Schiene’ – the partnership between government, business and associations to promote rail. The key topics of the event were digitalisation and the Deutschland-Takt – the creation of a co-ordinated, efficient nationwide timetable to maximise capacity.

The Zukunftsbündnis Schiene has five main goals:

  1. Making rail more punctual by introducing the Deutschland-Takt timetable
  2. Making rail more reliable by increasing capacity
  3. Making rail more flexible by improving the competitiveness of rail
  4. Making rail quieter by reducing noise emissions
  5. Making rail more innovative by supporting innovations
The Deutschland-Takt aims to co-ordinate and increase rail services throughout Germany: an ICE 4 in Frankfurt
The Deutschland-Takt aims to co-ordinate and increase rail services throughout Germany © Deutsche Bahn AG / Oliver Lang

Measures to Increase Capacity on the German Rail Network

The report on the Deutschland-Takt timetable contained the full goal timetable for 2030, covering local rail connections, long-distance connections and freight. It said that in order to increase capacity on the network, the major infrastructure projects should be accompanied by the implementation of ETCS and by moving forward with digital interlockings.

The goal of the Deutschland-Takt timetable is to bring about more frequent services, with a train every thirty minutes on the main transport links. By optimising connections, the timetable will also shorten overall travel times for passengers. Lastly, the Deutschland-Takt timetable aims to bring about blanket coverage so that all towns and regions are well-connected. This timetable will also benefit the freight sector. For example, it envisages the construction of special freight lines.

Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer said:

“The coalition agreement is the most pro-rail in many, many years. Rail can make a significant contribution to us reaching our climate goals in the transport sector. Taking the train is active climate protection. Together with the representatives in politics, business and in associations we want to double the number of passengers by 2030 and shift more freight to rail. And we want to do that while delivering a good service at high quality. The Deutschland-Takt is an important building block in these aims. We want to make passengers feel the benefits quickly and we want to implement it in stages. We want to roll it out in the first regions as early as 2021. Customers will then see right away what improvements the infrastructure developments are giving them – namely more, better connections and shorter travel times.”

Deutsche Bahn to Increase Services between Berlin and Hamburg

In order to implement the Deutschland-Takt timetable, Deutsche Bahn says it will make sure that there will be a train every thirty minutes between Hamburg and Berlin when the 2021 timetable comes into effect. This is an increase of six train pairs per day and marks a capacity increase of 20 percent. Specifically, the 2019 capacity on this route is 30,000 seats on 24 trains. In 2021 there will be 36,000 seats on 30 trains.

Richard Lutz, CEO, Deutsche Bahn, said at the rail summit:

“Hamburg-Berlin is one of our top routes. With our planned increase in services we can increase seats by 20 percent. That will give even more passengers the opportunity to travel between Germany’s two largest cities in a completely climate-neutral manner, either by ICE or by Eurocity.”

The 24 services between Berlin and Hamburg currently run on three lines – two ICE lines and one EC line. The six new trains will then run on a fourth line, which will also be an ICE line.

Allianz pro Schiene Says Deutschland-Takt Must Be Implemented Quickly

Allianz pro Schiene also attended the rail summit at the BMVI. Its CEO, Dirk Flege, said:

“It is necessary that the implementation of the Deutschland-Takt progresses well. A co-ordinated, reliable and dense timetable will increase the attractiveness of rail. Countries such as Switzerland have been demonstrating that to Germany for years: if the service is good, more people will travel by train. The Deutschland-Takt must come – the sooner, the better.”

Dirk Flege said three things were necessary: continuing electrification, the future programme on rail freight and financial relief measures. In this context he welcomed the transport minister’s statement that VAT on long-distance train tickets would be reduced from 19 percent to seven percent.

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