IN OUR September edition we asked whether German Railway was fit to be privatised with a stock market listing. DB AG’s half-year results published in mid-August included encouraging figures for freight traffic with a 7% rise in tonne-km to 41·6 billion and a small increase in passenger-km to 33·9 billion.

However, the revenue from both freight and passenger traffic was lower than expected - partly because of competitive pressures from road hauliers and low-cost airlines. This suggested that DB AG was being blown off course in its troubled voyage towards the port of profitability.

The definitive answer to our question came on September 22, in a surprise statement from the Chairman of DB AG’s supervisory board Dr Michael Frenzel. He made it clear that a listing before the summer of 2006 was ’not realistic’ given current circumstances.

While Frenzel insisted that a stock market listing remained a strategic objective, his statement unleashed a barrage of media comment and speculation that included calls for the Chairman of DB AG’s management board Hartmut Mehdorn to resign, not least because he had made a listing into something of a personal crusade. These suggestions were robustly rejected, with support for the DB AG boss coming from none other than Chancellor Gerhard Schr