DB ICE passes freight train on Hannover - Hamburg line (Photo: Deutsche Bahn/Volker Emersleben)

GERMANY: Deutsche Bahn achieved an operating profit before tax and interest in the first half of this year and expects to turn in positive figures for the full year as well.

Announcing details of DB’s performance in the first half of this year on July 28, CEO and Chairman of the Management Board Dr Richard Lutz believed the national operator had turned a corner after the Covid-19 pandemic. ‘From nearly empty trains during the worst phase of the pandemic to new records in demand, especially in the passenger business, the turnround was swift ― many times faster and steeper than we expected.’

DB CEO Dr Richard Lutz and head of finance Dr Levin Holle

Lutz highlighted a boom in long-distance travel during May and June, with more people taking the train ‘than ever before in the history of the business’. As many as 12 million journeys were made on long-distance trains during June, up from 6∙4 million in June 2021, with 59∙1 million trips made from January to June, up by 117% from the same period last year. Turnover in the Fernverkehr division in June rose from €238m in 2021 to €476m this year.

Nearly 725 million journeys were made on local trains in January to June, a 60% increase, helping to drive total passenger-km in the six months to 36∙4 billion. The figures were doubtless helped by the availability in June of the government-sponsored special ticket giving a month’s travel on local and regional trains for just €9. Lutz pointed to the positive numbers as evidence of the operator’s policy to ‘stay on course even in difficult times and position ourselves for strong growth with new trains, better offers and more staff’.

All this contributed towards an €876m operating profit for the whole business during the first half of the year, when turnover rose by more than 28% to €28bn. Significantly, the main driver was the performance of DB Schenker, DB’s logistics and supply chain division. Logging an operating profit of around €1∙2bn in the first six months, DB Schenker nearly doubled its 2021 performance to achieve a best ever result, according to Board Member for Finance & Logistics Dr Levin Holle.

Turnover at DB Cargo was up by 5∙6% with tonnes carried static compared with January to June 2021 at 115 million, representing 45 523 million tonne-km, an increase of 1∙2%. DB notes that traffic had been affected since March by the war in Ukraine and by capacity constraints caused by engineering and maintenance work.

Punctuality concerns

DB trains in Leipzig Hbf (Photo: Deutsche Bahn/Max Lautenschläger)

The positive news was tempered by concerns over punctuality and reliability, which Lutz described as ‘unacceptable’. Dealing with this demanded ‘a radical change in direction and solutions that deal with the root of the problem’, he said. Only 69∙6% of long-distance trains met punctuality criteria in the first half of this year, down from 79∙5% in the same period in 2021. The figure for all DB’s passenger services was 92∙5%, the criterion being arrival within 6 min of schedule.

Acknowledging that much needed to be done, Lutz promised that ‘many preventative measures’ would be deployed this year and next to restore reliability. These included upgrading diversionary routes when engineering works are in progress and the bundling of maintenance tasks on major corridors, starting in 2024. The result will be ‘a robust and efficient network with space for even more trains’, he said.

DB forecasts that it will end the year with an operating profit of more than €1bn on turnover of over €54bn, although it warned that considerable uncertainty remained because of the war in Ukraine and the unknown development of the Covid-19 pandemic.