As the climate crisis rages across the world, burning through Australia and intensifying cyclones in Southern Africa, Germany has emerged as a key player in sustainable travel.
The country and state-owned railway operator Deutsche Bahn have come together to announce a 10-year, €86bn project to upgrade the national rail network in Germany’s “biggest modernisation project ever.”
€62bn of this will come directly from the national government and will be directed towards upgrading rails, signalling control, power supply and stations.
As set out in Reuters, this is a welcome U-turn from a failed cost-cutting attempt to sell the railway operator amid the 2007-08 financial crisis. Deutsche Bahn operates most long-distance trains in the country and in recent years has failed to maintain the efficiency and punctuality synonymous with German travel.
The new investment represents a 54% increase in funding from the 2015-19 period, with Andreas Scheur, Transport Minister, adding the pithy comment that: “the 20s will be a golden era for the railway.”
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The almost €90bn investment follows Germany’s decision to reduce value-added tax on train tickets to make longer-distance travel about 10% cheaper — a move that came into effect this month. The idea is to encourage more people to use trains and thereby reduce emissions.
AP adds that Deutsche Bahn expects passenger numbers to increase by five million a year as a result of the price cut, and was therefore investing more than €12bn in plans to expand and modernise its stock over the coming years. It’s a piece of welcome PR for the operator, which has just emerged from a disastrous spat with Greta Thunberg, the face of the conservation movement, which prompted concerns about the handling of personal travel data.
The Guardian points out that while fares for short-distance travel in several regions in Germany are set to increase, the tone of the decision and the increased investment stands in sharp contrast to countries such as the UK, in which millions of commuters face a 2.7% rise in ticket prices from this month.
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