Germany, with an area of 357,050 km2 and 81.7 million inhabitants, has a consolidated railway network of 43,468 kilometres, the largest nation in the European Union and the sixth worldwide. Its strategic location, as well as its commitment to modern modes of transport, means that it is at the forefront in the incorporation of systems and new technologies that guarantee maximum safety, reliability, energy efficiency and respect for the environment and surroundings.
The German rail market is characterised by its maturity, with extensive and modern networks. The railway plays a key role in cities, regional connections and European countries, as it enjoys strong demand levels as a means of transport. With regard to its structure, a characteristic of this railway industry is the co-existence of a large number of medium-sized companies, suppliers of components and electrical or automatic systems. On the one hand, there are the State-run companies, subsidiaries of the Deutsche Bahn group that own most of the commuter, freight and long-distance transport service (DB Regio, DB Cargo, DB Fernverkehr) and boast more than 4,200 customers in Europe. It is the supplier of one of the largest rail networks in the world, with around 80% of the market share of total merchandise traffic and 99% of total long-distance passenger traffic in Germany and 74% of commuter rail.
In addition to Deutsche Bahn, more than 150 private companies operate on the German network. The S-Bahn Stadtschnellbahn serves the main suburban areas and Hamburg Cologne Express (HKX) is the second largest long-distance passenger operator. These are joined by the companies of the federated states, the municipal ones, as well as those of third countries that work (Schweizerischer Bundes Bahn, owner of SBB Cargo Deutschland, Trenitalia who absorbed TXLogistico, and the French company SNCF through its subsidiary Captrain. In terms of private companies, there are five that are the most prominent (Mittelwesery RC4 handle freight transport and Veolia, Arriva and Abellio carry passenger traffic).In 1994, a smooth and gradual liberation process was opted for. In this way, the national company, Deutsche Bahn yielded around 25% of passenger traffic to the private sector. Also, DB maintains its activities in the lines of national scope and the maintenance of the infrastructure continues to be entrusted to the state. In recent years, the opening up to competition has also commenced in interurban and suburban rail transport.
Investment master plan
The German Ministry of Transport has a long-term infrastructure master plan in place. This is the “2030 Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan” or FTIP. This roadmap includes both the investments required for structural maintenance and infrastructure repair, as well as another 1,000 modernisation and construction projects. In total, this new program has been granted financing of 269.6 billion euros for high quality transport networks. Of this amount, the actions for the improvement of the railway system represent 41.6%, with the main priority in the structural maintenance of the existing network. Amongst the aims, reduce bottlenecks, increase transport capacity, reduce waiting times and continue with the processes of digitisation. The list of railway projects highlights especially the extensions of high-speed networks, as well as modernisation, electrification and duplication of routes. To accomplish this, 40.456 billion euros has been set aside, as detailed in Annex II of this State Plan.
In turn, the DB Group has also launched the “DB2020 + strategy”, a programme in which it establishes the priorities to face the growing traffic flows in Europe. To this end, the company continues to advance in areas such as station modernisation, digitalisation, timekeeping, energy efficiency, etc.
The German state railway operator will raise investment in its infrastructure this year, as part of the boost it wishes to give its network to achieve efficient, comfortable, punctual and modern services. The group plans to spend a “record sum” of 9.3 billion euros on upgrading, repairing and expanding roads, stations, bridges and tunnels. This figure represents an increase of 9.4% compared to the previous year.
Amongst the most relevant projects are the overhauls of the main routes, such as the sections linking the northern ports of Bremen and Hamburg with the cities further south, and two lines that cross the southeast border of Germany with Austria. In addition, some 700 stations, including Frankfurt and Magdeburg, in eastern Germany, are also included in these improvement projects, with a budget of 1.2 billion euros.