09 Feb 2024, 13:01
Sören Amelang

Railway investment cuts put Germany's mobility transition at risk, alliance warns

A broad alliance of German climate NGOs, welfare organisations, trade unions and business associations has warned that the cuts to the country’s railway budget puts the mobility transition and climate targets at risk. “With the adoption of the 2024 budget, it is clear that by 2027 at least 13.5 billion euros will be lacking for the basic refurbishment of the rail network,” the alliance said. “Funds that were planned for the expansion and new construction now have to be used for refurbishment and urgently needed projects cannot be realised as planned.” The organisations criticise that the funds for highway constructions remained untouched. “This wrong-headed prioritisation jeopardises the climate targets,” the alliance said, calling for a transport infrastructure policy approach that considers mobility transition and climate targets a baseline.

A pro-rail initiative also bemoaned slow progress in reactivating old railway lines in rural parts of the country. There is growing interest in reviving previously abandoned rail tracks, but progress remains very slow, according to railway lobby group Allianz pro Schiene. The group said there have been a sharp increase in feasibility studies on railway reactivations, of which more than three-quarters arrive at a positive conclusion, but only very few projects see the light of day. It added that only eight kilometres of rail network were reactivated in Germany in 2022, and none at all in 2023. "We see a huge backlog in implementation,” the lobby group’s head, Dirk Flege, said. “We need to move eight times faster than before if the public sector wants to implement the reactivations for which positive feasibility studies already exist by 2030 alone - that would be more than 1,300 kilometres of rail lines."

The initiative points to an analysis by technical university Deggendorf, which looked at 115 reactivation projects, of which only around ten percent have been implemented successfully. The researchers said the largest hurdle for most projects was to show that they are economically viable, while a formal criterion of at least 1,000 passengers per day was an additional problem in Bavaria. The researchers also found that local actors often neglect the potential of reactivations for freight services. Flege called on Germany’s federal states to adopt clear reactivation strategies with concreate timetables to avoid that local players put in years or even decades of work without making any progress.

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