IT LOOKS as if political decisions determining the future legal status of Deutsche Bahn AG will be taken next month. But don’t expect anything simple or clear cut.

At least the options are being narrowed down. A joint parliamentary committee charged by the government with investigating the privatisation of DB AG came out clearly in June against a complete separation of infrastructure and operations.

Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee confirmed this in Berlin on June 30, saying that full separation was off the agenda. In a comment on the latest position papers to be prepared for the Bundestag, Tiefensee implied that the infrastructure would remain in the hands of DB AG. Still to be decided was whether DB AG would actually own the infrastructure - according with DB AG Chairman Hartmut Mehdorn’s wish to see the entire railway privatised as a single unit - or merely take possession of it on behalf of the state. Both options were included in a report on privatising Germany’s national railway prepared by Booz Allen Hamilton and submitted to Tiefensee in January (RG 2.06 p57).

DB AG’s supervisory board lost no time in issuing a statement welcoming the decision not to go for full separation, noting that the parliament had asked the government to look at ’different variants of the integrated business’. With no sign of a let-up in Mehdorn’s campaign to keep an integrated structure, the statement pointed out that the present business structure was at the heart of DB AG’s recent commercial success.