The joy in Barby would have been great when Deutsche Bahn announced a few weeks ago that it would also reactivate the eight-kilometer route to Güterglück. “We would then have the option of using the station again,” Barbys mayor Torsten Reinharz told broadcaster MDR. For the moment, citizens are “a little left behind in this rural area”. Barby is in the Salzlandkreis, Güterglück in the district of Anhalt-Bitterfeld. No train has been on the route since 2004.
Güterglück station is abandoned. It has been a long time since there have been rails on some parts of the route, not even on the Elbe Bridge. Every now and then there were rumors that the over 150-year-old monument should be demolished. It is not known when the trains could run again on the route and on the bridge. Until now, the Barby-Güterglück line was a “conceptual idea” of the railway. Elsewhere, the plans are more precise, for example on the Ehrang-Igel axis in Rhineland-Palatinate. According to the Bahn, it could probably resume operations as early as 2024.
Since 1955, nearly 30 percent of rail lines in Germany have been closed – in both East and West, according to a study by the Ifo Institute. While the connections to the west were closed especially at the time of the economic miracle and the automobile boom, that is to say in the fifties and sixties, to the east they were abandoned in the ” economically difficult phase ”after reunification. In 2019, the publicly accessible rail network was nearly 38,400 kilometers long. This includes routes served by Deutsche Bahn, for the most part, and private providers. The decades-long thinning of the rail network makes it more difficult to recover traffic in rural areas, explains Felix Rösel, co-author of Ifo.
He advocates reactivation, knowing full well that it will cost a lot of money. “But you shouldn’t just measure the benefit by the number of people who stand on and step on the platform,” says the economist. After all, rural areas could be better connected to booming regions in this way. Reactivation could also serve to protect the climate, especially if the lines were electrified and the electricity came from renewable energies. “An empty train with a diesel locomotive does nothing.”