GERMANY: The federal government needs to accelerate significantly the rate of electrification if it is to achieve its target of having at least 70% of the national network wired by 2025, according to the non-profit transport alliance Allianz pro Schiene.


Calling for an ‘electrification offensive on the railways’, the alliance published a study on March 1 which showed that electrification in Germany had been progressing ‘at a snail’s pace’ for the past decade. An increase in the electrified proportion of the 33 400 km network from 59% to 61% represented an average of 65 route-km per year, whereas an average of 575 km per year would need to be energised if the government were to meet its 2025 target.

Pointing out that this would represent an eight-fold increase in the rate of electrification, the alliance said wiring should then continue at a rate of at least 330 km beyond 2025 onwards in order to achieve a proportion of 75% by 2030.

‘Only by accelerating the expansion of e-mobility on the tracks can the German government achieve its goal by 2025’, said Allianz pro Schiene Managing Director Dirk Flege. ‘The railways have been successfully relying on e-mobility since the 19th century. Now the federal government must ensure that this success story continues in the 21st century. We have a decade behind us at a snail’s pace. It can’t stay that way. Politicians must not neglect e-mobility on the railways, because this is where it brings the greatest benefits.’


Emphasising that the expansion of electrification and the use of alternative traction to replace diesel would improve rail’s environmental advantages, the alliance said ‘the rail industry is once again extending its lead over other modes of transport in terms of environmental and climate impact’. Replacing diesel locomotives by ‘quieter electric locomotives with significantly lower emissions’ would also make rail transport more competitive and efficient in the long term, it believed, which would help to increase its market share.

Alternatives supported

While calling for more electrification, Allianz pro Schiene also believes that the federal government needs to back the development and deployment of alternative traction technologies such as hydrogen, batteries and dual-mode locomotives. Noting that new funding guidelines from the Federal Ministry of Transport allow the state to cover between 40% and 60% of the additional costs for procuring rail vehicles with alternative drives, it points out that subsidies for buses with alternative drives are allowed up to 80%. ‘There is no reason to put alternative drive systems on the railways in a worse position than those on the roads’, Flege commented.

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The alliance said it was unclear whether dual-mode locomotives for rail freight, which could operate on and off electrified lines, were eligible for any support funding at all. Although ‘it is precisely with these locomotives that many diesel journeys under the overhead wires can be avoided’. By contrast, the purchase of diesel lorries was still being financially supported by the federal government, the organisation reported.