Germany Struggles to Keep Up with New Railway Trends

The natural response of most German rail advocates is to sneer at the idea of high-speed rail; France has genuine problems with punctuality, neglect of legacy rail lines, and poor interconnections between lines (it has nothing like the hourly or two-hour clockface timetables of German intercity rail), and those are all held as reasons why Germany has little to learn from France. But at the same time, punctuality has steadily eroded this year: It’s notable that the June introduction of the 9€ ticket is invisible in the graphic for intercity rail; it did coincide with deterioration in regional rail punctuality, but the worst problems are for the intercity trains. A seven-hour rail trip from Munich to Berlin – four and a half on the timetable plus two and a half of sitting at and just outside Nuremberg – has forced me to think a lot more about the ongoing collapse of the German intercity rail network. Thus, completing a German high-speed rail network is not an opposed goal to reliability. One bad summer does not destroy a rail network; riders can understand a few bad months provided the problem is relieved. DB still expects to double intercity ridership by the mid-2030s. This requires investments in capacity, connectivity, speed, and reliability – and completing the high-speed network, far from prioritizing speed at the expense of the other needs, fulfills all needs at once. Ridership has fully recovered to pre-corona levels – in May it was 5% above 2019 levels, and that was just before the nine-euro monthly ticket was introduced, encouraging people to shift their trips to June, July, and August to take advantage of what is, among other things, free transit outside one’s city of residence. (). Continue reading.



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