Deutsche bahn to replace car trains with trucks from 2017 onwards

Soon the last of its kind: The Sylt Shuttle between Westerland and Niebull will continue to take cars by rail. But the railroads now want to literally pull other car trains out of service

T he deutsche bahn (DB) has three permanent problem areas in passenger transport – apart from striking train drivers: the night trains, the car trains and the dining cars. In all three areas, the rail group regularly makes significant losses.

"if we were only looking at margins, we would actually have to say goodbye to these three business areas," says a rail manager to the "welt" newspaper. But of course that’s not possible, after all, the DB group is a state-owned company and passenger transport is part of the so-called services of general interest.

So the night trains will remain in operation – albeit with a reduced schedule – as will the dining cars. Only the car leases will finally expire in 2017. Then it’s over with "piggyback", i.e. traveling with car and train at the same time. But the railroad is looking at alternatives: on two routes, the car trains have already been replaced by trucks.

Rail traffic switches to the road

A corresponding pilot project has been well received by customers, says a rail spokeswoman. Since april, the classic car train on the berlin-munich and dusseldorf-munich routes no longer runs as a train, but as a truck. Customers arrive at their destination separately and independently of their car and pick it up there.

a survey of users of this offer showed "one hundred percent approval," according to the railroad company. "customers have indicated that they can well imagine another trip of this kind," says the spokeswoman. the immediate consequence is that the temporary trial balloon with car transport by truck will now be extended into the new year.

The motorail trains still run on twelve lines. The main routes run south from hamburg and dusseldorf, with foreign destinations being innsbruck and villach in carinthia and narbonne in France and alessandria in italy. These connections are now being gradually cancelled.

Traditional travel offer soon to be history

the hamburg/hildesheim to innsbruck and dusseldorf-innsbruck routes will be discontinued with the 2014/15 winter timetable. Connections from dusseldorf and hamburg to the four international stations will be discontinued as of the summer schedule.

Until the end of the 2017 summer timetable, only the service between hamburg and lorrach and between hamburg and munich will remain as a classic car train – with the latter connection being reduced in the season from eight and nine trips per week respectively to seven. After this, the motorail train introduced in germany in the 1930s will be history.

The reason for the end this year is due to the technical approvals of the cars, some of which are 40 years old. Because they expire in 2017. Then large sums would have to be invested to replace the special cars altogether. But the railroad doesn’t want to afford any more cost-intensive commitment.

because the motorail trains have been making losses for years. according to "welt" information, the deficit last year alone was in the double-digit million range. 200.000 customers used the offer, 80 percent of them in the season between may and october. Downward trend. For comparison: on long-distance services, deutsche bahn carries 360 passengers per day.000 customers.

In addition to the trains, the loading facilities are also expensive, and their operation is costly, at least when measured against the manageable number of customers. Trucks do not require special terminals, and trucks can be ordered according to the order situation, which means that transport capacity can be better adapted to demand.

Deutsche Bahn does not want to give up the sylt shuttle

Even with the truck, the piggyback business remains in the group. For the order goes to the railroad subsidiary DB schenker. If the customer numbers are right, the railroad can imagine further truck transports as a substitute for the car train. But no decision has been made yet, and for the time being, user numbers would first have to increase on the selected routes.

on one line, however, the car trains will remain: cars will still be transported to the island of sylt by car train after 2017. Although the private rail company RDC and LVS Schleswig-Holstein want to organize the operation of the so-called sylt shuttle between niebull and westerland in the future, they have already applied for the allocation of train paths in a ten-year framework agreement.

But RDC has hit a snag with the railroads: "We will not give up this offer under any circumstances," says a railroad manager to "Die Welt". Because this connection is very lucrative for the railroads.

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Christina Cherry
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