THERE are plenty of juicy items on the agenda of German Railway Chairman Hartmut Mehdorn, who took office on December 16. DB has denied media speculation that Mehdorn intends to tear up the present structure of a holding group and independent subsidiaries, but it is clear that he plans to make his mark quickly. Punctuality tables displayed at main stations showing the previous day’s performance have already been ripped down and replaced by information boards showing, among other things, the location of major traffic jams on the motorways. By the middle of this month the performance tables should be available on DB’s internet site.

Before taking office, Mehdorn indicated that major changes are on the way. One suggestion is that DB will be made financially much more attractive to the private sector, with a possible stock market flotation in the next three or four years. Tough financial targets could include a 5% annual increase in turnover, with a DM5bn profit in 2004 on turnover of DM50bn.

This year should see extra revenue of up to DM400m generated by the Expo 2000 World Fair in Hannover. But this could be jeopardised by continuing problems with the fleet of ET424 EMUs specially built with low-floor bodies to give same-level boarding on Hannover S-Bahn routes. DB says that the trains have not been accepted from Adtranz, because of signalling interference problems. A decision on the 40 four-car sets is due this month, the fallback plan being to draft in ET423 units from other cities and forego the same-level boarding.

Mehdorn can at least rejoice that the green element in the government has succeeded in raising the national transport budget for rail from DM17·4bn in 1999 to DM21·4bn this year. Many investment decisions are outstanding, not least on the ambitious Stuttgart 21 project to relocate that city’s main station. This was discussed inconclusively at a board meeting at the end of November, as was the even more intractable question of the Berlin - Hamburg maglev line, but with no firm decision. We await Mehdorn’s view on that one with interest.