Because of the German government's climate targets, traffic in Germany must be significantly reduced in the coming years. Transport Minister Scheuer therefore wants a railway reform that puts climate protection first. This is urgently needed. More digitalisation and modern infrastructure are to contribute to the turnaround.
Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) wants to reform the railways so that they are more committed to climate protection. Profit maximisation should no longer be the top priority. At the same time, the railway infrastructure is to be expanded and digitalised more strongly.
Railway stations are to become mobility centres with bicycle parking garages, charging stations for electric cars and hydrogen filling stations for buses and trains. Scheuer sets all these goals for the next legislative period. Because of the Corona pandemic, it would not have been possible for him to initiate these changes. The railways had received support from the state during the pandemic.
But even after the pandemic, the implementation of Scheuer's fantastic-sounding plan is likely to be difficult. The railways have been working on the electrification of the route network for years. From 2005 to 2010, however, only about 0.4% of the network was electrified on average. It boasts that long-distance traffic - a rather small proportion of the routes - runs on green electricity. At the same time, about two thirds of the locomotives are still running on diesel, which have not been modernised for years and pollute the air without restriction, while diesel cars have long been regulated by environmental zones and face ever stricter rules. At the same time, Deutsche Bahn is closing more and more parts of its network, especially in small towns where business is not lucrative. The prices of Deutsche Bahn are also usually enormously high, compared to travelling by long-distance bus, a rental car or even by plane. This is fatal for climate protection.
So a reform is indeed not only necessary, but long overdue. This will not only have to be about digitalisation and the modernisation of the stations, but above all about getting the old dirty vehicles off the rails and relying on drives with renewable energies, reactivating the rail network even in places where it may not be economically profitable so that people there are not dependent on the car, and making the prices so affordable that the railway is a serious alternative.
Whether the railway can one day actually contribute to climate protection for the transport turnaround remains to be seen. In any case, Scheuer is leaving his successor a pile of responsibilities that he shirked during his time in office.