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The eight rail associations reiterated the three most important demands of the industry on policymakers within the framework of the ongoing coalition negotiations: The next federal government must expand the infrastructure for a synchronised German timetable, promote the digitalisation of rail systems and advance the transportation revolution. The associations had previously published these demands in a joint paper at the start of the year. The rail industry welcomes the fact that the funding for the railway sector was significantly expanded during the last legislative session. Nevertheless, the future federal government must further accelerate the pace and make rail transport a priority. All parties had spoken in favour of strengthening the rail sector prior to the election. In the previously published results of the discussion between SPD, the Greens and FDP, however, the rail associations still see significant potential for additional strengthening of rail transportation.
Of paramount importance for Germany is the achievement of the climate protection goals by 2030, which is only possible in the transportation sector on the basis of railway traffic. That is the message of the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV), Alliance for Rail, Federal Association of Local Rail Transportation (BSN), mofair, Network of European Railways, Transportation Club Germany (VCD), German Rail Industry Association (VDB) and the Association of Private Wagon Keepers (VPI). They assert that, with respect to the climate protection goals, the number of passengers in passenger transport must be doubled over the next decade and the market share in freight traffic must be increased to at least 25 percent. The rail associations therefore call upon the new federal government to consistently strengthen and accelerate the modernisation of rail transportation. This requires that the new federal government prioritise three issues:
The key to a successful rail policy lies in an expansion of rail infrastructure. Four things are important for a synchronised German timetable and a more capable rail infrastructure.
- The government must increase the funds for construction and expansion of the rail network up to at least three billion euros annually by no later than the middle of the legislative period.
- The expansion and modernisation of rail infrastructure must be financially secured over the long-term just as is currently the case for maintenance of the network. A state rail infrastructure fund similar to the one in Switzerland would be a suitable measure here.
- The federal government and the industry must define intermediate steps on the way to a synchronised German timetable with specific service improvements. For each individual stage, the government must establish a secure financial basis for the necessary infrastructure expansion. This also applies for the railway infrastructure that is not under federal ownership. Only this way will it be possible to frame an attractive proposition for customers over the last mile.
- The capability of the existing infrastructure must be increased more quickly – in particular through small- and medium-scale measures, closing of electrification gaps, reactivation of routes and the expansion and modernisation of private sidings.
Digitalisation will improve the capability and reliability of both railway operations and the infrastructure itself. Four shifts are required here, in particular.
- Germany must demonstrate financial and organisational ingenuity in digitalising the entire federal rail network and the vehicle fleets by 2035.
- The key technology for greater efficiency in railway traffic is called digital automatic coupling (DAC). The upgrading of 450,000 wagons across Europe during this decade will cost more than eight billion euros. The companies in the industry will require funding from the federal government and the EU to accomplish this Herculean feat.
- For consumer-friendly public transportation, direct tickets from door to door must be the rule. This also includes industry-wide information about the schedules of all providers in real-time and about modern features, such as capacity utilisation data.
- The federal government must provide more incentives for innovation, such as by expanding the “Federal Programme for the Future of Railway Traffic” and an innovation bonus for investments in digital, emission-free technologies.
A substantial increase in the market share of rail traffic would bring Germany closer to its climate protection goals. More traffic on the rails means a higher quality of life for everyone: fewer traffic jams, less vehicle exhaust, use of less area for transportation and fewer victims of traffic accidents. Three things are urgently necessary for a transportation revolution.
- The federal government must improve its freedom of choice in the use of truck toll revenues. In other words, moving away from the principle of “road finances only road” to the principle of “transportation finances transportation”. An accelerated transportation revolution can be financed with the income from the truck toll, the elimination of environmentally harmful subsidies and the introduction of carbon taxes.
- The rail network must be given priority in the federal budget with regard to the construction and expansion of transportation infrastructure and must receive at least two thirds of the respective budget funds.
- A great many individual measures are also necessary to bring about a transportation revolution. It is therefore necessary to exempt the railways from the electricity tax, relieve electric trains of the burden of the Renewable Energies Act levy, establish a framework for future-ready single wagon traffic and provide for a long-term reduction of the fees for infrastructure use in passenger and freight traffic. Fees that represent a unique burden on only the railway sector must be eliminated.
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