A CAUTIONARY tale reaches us from Schleswig-Holstein, where newly-established operator FLEX-Verkehrs AG took over InterRegio services between Hamburg and Flensburg from German Railway on December 15 last year. A subsidiary of Norddeutsche Nahverkehrsgesellschaft mbH, FLEX had an ambitious programme to develop services over the route, and had launched with a fleet of refurbished coaches and leased locomotives. All this is now in jeopardy.

On August 12 FLEX filed for insolvency proceedings in Flensburg. Last year Schleswig-Holstein’s Minister for Transport Dr Bernd Rohwer wrote that placing the contract with NNVG ’was in economic terms a smart decision’ (RG 12.02 p776). At the time it probably was, but two problems have since emerged. FLEX was relying on German Railway to sell most of its tickets as it had no marketing outlets of its own. It now turns out that there was no agreement over the allocation of revenue between the two organisations - and DB has continued to run its own InterCity and EuroCity trains over the route.

As 90% of the private company’s revenue was collected through DB, FLEX found itself in serious trouble. Worse, according to the Land transport ministry, FLEX has calculated that its revenue estimates were in any case too low to make the business viable. An administrator has been appointed, and the transport ministry has stated that it wants to keep the trains running. As we closed for press, offers were being sought from other operators.