New Vegetation Management Scheme Cuts Storm Damage by 25%

Deutsche Bahn says its new vegetation management programme, put in place in 2018, is paying dividends.

In 2018 Deutsche Bahn started investing more money and directing more staff towards its vegetation management programme with the aim of better controlling and looking after the trees along the rail network. As a result damage to tracks and overhead line equipment caused by storms has decreased by 25 percent during those two years.

Ronald Pofalla, Head of Infrastructure, Deutsche Bahn, said:

“This is a pleasing result and demonstrates that we're on a good path and that our increased efforts are the right ones.

“Every year we invest the record sum of 125 million euros in order to make the vegetation along our tracks robust and storm-proof. We want to be reliable for our passengers in all weather after all. But what is also clear is that in light of the increasing frequency of extreme weather events it won't be possible to deliver one hundred percent protection from storm damage to tracks and overhead lines.”

Vegetation management at Deutsche Bahn
Vegetation management at Deutsche Bahn

For two years now a team of experts has taken care of the forests along the railway lines. Deutsche Bahn’s vegetation management has been expanded. More than a thousand foresters and other employees are now responsible for ensuring the lineside vegetation is safe. The main tasks are cutting back vegetation six metres to the left and right of tracks and removing sick and unstable trees in the woodlands.

Deutsche Bahn also uses modern technology such as satellite and drone footage to create precise digital vegetation maps. This allows Deutsche Bahn to identify problem trees earlier.

Deutsche Bahn owns 28,000 hectares of woodland, making it one of Germany’s largest woodland owners. 70 percent of Germany’s 34,000km rail network goes through areas with tree cover. Consequently the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research (PIK) confirmed in 2018 that Deutsche Bahn was more affected by the effects of climate change than any other major business in Germany.

Deutsche Bahn works with private woodland owners, municipalities and the federal government as well as environmental organisations to deploy its vegetation management strategies.

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