Germany can start the most significant railway development in recent decades

Germany can start the most significant railway development in recent decades

June 18, 2024

The federal government would cut funding to Autobahn GmbH, the company that builds and operates motorways, by 20 percent next year, from €6.29 billion to €4.99 billion. The reduction of expenses will continue in the following years: in 2026 and 2027, the budgetary resources for the maintenance and expansion of highways will be reduced by one billion euros, and in 2028 by another 378 million euros.

Transport Minister Volker Wissing emphasized that "roads are our most important means of transport", so their funding must be properly ensured. Although the budget is still being prepared, Wissing's goal is for Autobahn GmbH to receive the full investment funds needed for 2025, despite his dispute with the FDP party leader and Finance Minister Christian Lindner. According to a statement from the Ministry of Transport, due to the current budget situation and the necessary savings, it is not possible to meet the investment needs of all transport infrastructure. Although the ministry's plans include record level investments, due to the neglect of transport infrastructure by previous governments, the current investment needs are greater than the available financial framework. The goal is to increase investments within the budget, including investments in highways and main roads. A law passed in mid-July enables the biggest renovation and modernization program of the railway network. In light of the significant cuts, Autobahn GmbH announced a request for 4.1 billion euros less than the financial resources planned for the current four years, especially with regard to the necessary bridge reconstructions.

According to Peter Hübner, president of the German Construction Industry Association, "the process of the destruction of Germany's roads and bridges continues," as maintenance and investment have been underfunded for decades. CDU politician Florian Müller believes that cutting Autobahn GmbH funding is like setting fire to a In a dry forest, the Autobahn GmbH was already underfunded and the new cuts would mean the end of the projects to be terminated. The German Automobile Club (ADAC) also criticizes the planned cuts, as many highways and bridges are still in poor condition, so the failure of a bridge can have serious consequences.

Benjamin Stephan, a transport expert at Greenpeace, welcomed the savings and called on Wissing to focus the funds on renovation instead, stopping new construction projects. In the meantime, the largest modernization program of the German railway network in recent decades was given the green light. In mid-June, the Federal Railway Network Development Act, which regulates the distribution of costs between the federal and provincial governments, was passed. Deutsche Bahn plans to completely renovate 40 key railway lines by 2030, not during continuous operation, but during longer closures. According to the new law, the costs of rail replacement solutions are borne jointly by the states, the federal government and Deutsche Bahn.

According to the Pro-Rail Alliance, this is good news for passengers, as it ensures full replacement of transport. The law also contributes to the costs of upgrading infrastructure and vehicles as part of digitization, and the federal government supports the renovation of station buildings, which are now part of the railway infrastructure. The law makes it clear that the renovation of high-capacity corridors cannot come at the expense of the rest of the rail network, although it does not provide compensation for rail freighters for the duration of the renovations, which puts them at a competitive disadvantage against road freight.

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