German Rail Associations Present Three Demands Ahead of Elections

The three key demands of the rail associations in the election year 2021:

1. Expand infrastructure

2. Consistently digitize rails

3. Force traffic turnaround

At the beginning of the election year 2021, the eight railway associations presented their three most important demands on politics. The next federal government must expand the infrastructure for the Deutschlandtakt, advance the digitization of the railways and accelerate the traffic turnaround, according to a joint paper of the associations on the federal election. In this, the rail industry recognizes that the incumbent black-red coalition has increased the financial resources for the rail sector. But the future federal government must increase the pace and give rail priority.

A lot has happened in the past four years, emphasize Allianz pro Schiene, BAG SPNV, Mofair, NEE, VCD, Verband der Bahnindustrie, VDV and VPI in their paper. There is now a “Master Plan for Rail Freight Transport”, a “Master Plan for Rail Transport” and a “Target timetable for Germany clock 2030”. The climate protection program 2030, which can only succeed with more rail traffic, is of paramount importance. The eight rail associations are now insisting on the implementation of the commitments. In this legislature, the Federal Government and Bundestag have already formulated the goal of doubling the number of passengers in local and long-distance transport and increasing the market share of rail freight transport to at least 25 percent. For this, the next federal government must start at three points.

Expand infrastructure

The key to a successful rail policy lies in expanding the rail infrastructure. Four things are important for a German cycle and a more efficient rail infrastructure.

  • The federal government must increase the funds for the new construction and expansion of the rail network to at least three billion euros per year by the middle of the legislative period at the latest.
  • The expansion and modernization of the rail infrastructure must be financially secure in the long term, as is the maintenance of the network. A state rail infrastructure fund based on the Swiss model is suitable for this.
  • The federal government and the industry must define intermediate steps with specific improvements to the range on the way to Germany. For each individual stage, the federal government must financially secure the necessary infrastructure expansion. 
  • The railway infrastructure, which is not federally owned, also needs more funding. This is the only way to make the connection to customers in the area (the “last mile”) attractive. 

Digitize the railway system

Both rail operations and the infrastructure are becoming more efficient and reliable through digitization. In particular, there are four points at stake.

  • Germany must digitize the entire federal rail network by 2035 in a financial and organizational effort.
  • The key technology for more efficiency in rail freight transport is called Digital Automatic Coupling (DAK). The conversion of the 450,000 freight wagons across Europe in this decade will cost more than eight billion euros. For this Herculean task, the companies need financial support from the federal government and the EU.
  • For consumer-friendly public transport, door-to-door through tickets must become the rule. This includes industry-wide information on timetables from all providers in real time and on modern features such as occupancy data.
  • The federal government must provide more incentives for innovations, for example by increasing the “Federal Program for the Future of Rail Freight Transport” and an innovation bonus for investments in digital, emission-free technologies.

Force traffic turnaround

With a substantially higher market share of the railways, Germany is making progress in climate protection. More traffic by rail means a better quality of life for everyone: fewer traffic jams, fewer emissions, less land use and fewer traffic victims. Three things are urgently needed for a traffic turnaround. 

  • The federal government must again create room for maneuver in the use of truck toll revenues. So away from the principle “road only finances road”, towards the principle “traffic finances traffic”. With the revenue from the truck toll, with the reduction of environmentally harmful subsidies and with CO2 taxes, the higher speed of the traffic turnaround can be financed.
  • The railways must be given priority in the federal budget when building and expanding transport infrastructure and receive at least two thirds of this budget.
  • A number of individual measures are also required for a traffic turnaround. The aim is to exempt the railways from electricity tax, to lower the EEG surcharge for electrically operated trains, to set a framework for sustainable single-wagon traffic and to permanently reduce the charges for the use of infrastructure in passenger and freight traffic. Charges that only affect the railway sector as a special burden must be abolished. 
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