Berlin - Hamburg track renewals (Photo DB Netz)

Track renewal work taking place on the Berlin – Hamburg main line.

GERMANY: In an internal report for Deutsche Bahn’s Supervisory Board, DB Netz Chairman Philipp Nagl has warned that the poor condition of parts of the national rail network risks jeopardising the future growth and quality of services. The cost of returning the 33 400 route-km network to a good state of repair amounts to €89bn, the report suggests.

The report divides all infrastructure assets, as assessed in 2021, into five categories, the worst of which is ‘unsatisfactory’ or ‘deficient’. Seen overall, the infrastructure portfolio is given a rating of 2∙93. As many as 2 378 signalboxes or control facilities, around half of the total, are rated as poor (grade 4) or worse, while the same applies to 2 310 bridges. The cost of rectification is put at €10∙9bn and €17∙2bn respectively.

The most heavily used 10% of the network is rated at 3∙01. Around 26% of all pointwork is given a poor or unsatisfactory rating, and the same applies to 23% of other trackwork, 22% of overhead line equipment and 42% of level crossings.

A comparison with other European rail networks gives Switzerland an overall rating of 2∙7, Austria 2∙1 and Norway 2∙2, all significantly better than the German network. The report says the aim should be to achieve a rating of 2∙5 or better on the future ‘high performance’ part of the network.

To meet the requirements of growing traffic and achieve a robust network, there must be ‘a radical change of course’, the report asserts. There needs to be an overall renovation concept to improve the condition of infrastructure on all sections of the network, so reducing the susceptibility of systems to failure.

‘The German rail network is in parts too old, too prone to failure and offers insufficient capacity’, Nagl concluded.