Deutsche Bahn is losing billions – and still hoping – the economy

Richard Lutz leaves nothing to chance. On Thursday, the railroad chief presented his group’s half-yearly figures, and he had his people prepare a nice presentation, with really fanciful pictures of trains. There is only one catch: the trains are almost all empty. Which in turn illustrates Lutz’s biggest problem in recent months.

The pandemic has also left deep traces in the first half of 2021, especially in long-distance traffic. The white train fleet carried 27 million passengers. Before the pandemic, in the first half of 2019, nearly 72 million people traveled on long-distance trains. Long-distance traffic alone lost over a billion euros, and ICs and ICEs weren’t particularly on time either – more than one in five long-distance trains arrived late. But: there is hope.

“The latest numbers,” says Lutz, “make us optimistic.” Long distance and regional traffic has increased. “People want to get back on the train.” Meanwhile, long-distance trains are also being used at 40% of their capacity, “and the trend is on the rise.”

The growing importance of climate protection is an opportunity for railways

The numbers for the current year will no longer tear it away. The state-owned company continues to expect a loss of two billion euros. In the first half of the year alone, the operating loss amounted to 975 million euros – although it was almost twice as high in the first half of 2020. And of all things, the subsidiary transport and logistics company Schenker, whose possible sale has been discussed many times, prevented worse things: it contributed 627 million euros in profit. In contrast, rail freight transport, DB Cargo, once again recorded a loss of over € 200 million. It is considered an ecological alternative to the road, and Lutz also sees it as one of the Group’s great potential in terms of climate protection. They want to “make more deals for a sustainable lifestyle,” he says.

The climate has only just set the group back – with billions in damage from catastrophic flooding to tracks, bridges, trains and stations. Lutz’s presentation also promises that Deutsche Bahn has planned € 12.7 billion in investments this year. And in the footnote: “These values ​​do not yet include the removal of flood damage.” For the railways, of course, the flooding is also an argument for switching to more climate-friendly mobility.

There is yet another major building site: the conflict with the GDL train drivers’ union. Only on Thursday he rejected an offer from the railways to regulate cooperation between GDL and the railway union EVG. “This is yet the umpteenth new edition of the well-known ‘cover up, cheat, cheat’ tactic,” said Claus Weselsky, CEO of GDL. You want to talk about a new collective agreement first and then everything else. With demands, of course, that CFO Levin Holle on Thursday called “completely exaggerated and supernatural”. The strike vote is already underway.

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