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05 Nov 2021, 12:23
Edgar Meza

Greens and pro-business FDP aim to break up railway company Deutsche Bahn - media report

Spiegel / Süddeutsche Zeitung

The Greens and pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), which look set to join the Social Democrats (SPD) in Germany’s next coalition government, favour breaking up national railway company Deutsche Bahn (DB) – a move opposed by the SPD. Spiegel reports that the Greens and FDP have discussed the future of DB as part of the country’s transport transition. Teaming up against the SPD, the Greens and FDP are calling for a fundamental reorganization of the company, which is 100 percent owned by the federal government. A breakup of DB would benefit smaller competitors already active in Germany, such as the privately owned Flixtrain. Plans under discussion include separating the company’s DB Netze division, which maintains the rail infrastructure, stations and energy supply, from train operations. The fact that DB is in desolate condition, with 30 billion euros in debt due in part to the impact of the pandemic, and continues to make losses from its cargo and UK transport subsidiaries, has bolstered the FDP and Green’s position, Spiegel notes.

The Greens in particular see DB playing a key role in climate policy and aim to double its passenger numbers by 2030. The FDP, Spiegel adds, is less concerned with climate and more interested in enabling greater competition and selling off profitable assets to pay off debts and free up money for investments. The plan could see DB’s infrastructure split off into a non-commercial public holding company, while regional, long-distance and freight transport operations would remain under one roof. The European Commission would certainly welcome the move, and Germany’s advisory Monopolies Commission is likewise calling for DB’s breakup, the article says. Commission chairman Jürgen Kühling told Süddeutsche Zeitung that he would like to see the next government increase competition by doing exactly what the Greens and FDP propose: “The new federal government should tackle the vertical separation of Deutsche Bahn AG, that is, separate the infrastructure from the actual rail operations.” Such a move would also support the new government’s transport transition reforms, he added. The SPD, FDP and Greens are aiming to conclude their coalition talks by late November.

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