Is the reservation system in INDIA correct?

The Deutsche Bahn Crisis: In the Debt Express

Deutsche Bahn recorded the greatest losses in its history. This is not only due to the corona crisis, but also to the mistakes of the past.

New look, but the company is pushing the debt shoe. July 31, Stuttgart, main station Photo: dpa

From this Saturday, the railway employees with customer contact will be out and about in new clothes. Instead of the previous blue uniforms with bright red details, 43,000 train attendants, service staff and train drivers will wear pieces from a collection by the star designer Guido Maria Kretschmer in blue and wine red. The darker red "burgundy" should make the train appear more likeable and modern.

Now clothes make the man and ideally improve the image - but the fresh look doesn't change the lousy balance sheets. Massive losses in ongoing business, a mountain of debts in the billions and customers who switch to other means of transport for fear of being infected with the coronavirus: Deutsche Bahn is facing a huge disaster.

"The virus suddenly thwarted our successful growth path and plunged Deutsche Bahn into the worst financial crisis since its existence," said CEO Richard Lutz at the presentation of the figures on Thursday. But not only the pandemic is responsible for this misery.

The losses in the first half of 2020 are enormous. For the first six months, the railway posted a minus of 1.8 billion euros, plus 1.4 billion euros in depreciation for the depreciation of the foreign subsidiary Arriva, which operates buses and trains in the European neighborhood. That is the biggest loss that the corporation, which is 100 percent owned by the federal government, has ever made. In the first half of 2019, the group had made a profit of 205 million euros.

This text comes from the taz on the weekend. Always from Saturday at the kiosk, in the eKiosk or with a weekend subscription. And on Facebook and Twitter.

At the beginning of the corona crisis, hardly anyone took the train. In April the number of passengers fell by 90 percent, in the entire first half of the year they fell by 37 percent. Many commuters worked at home, trips were canceled, and conferences were held on the computer. Most of the trains went on anyway. The costs stayed the same, the revenues plummeted.

Of those who took the train before the corona crisis, half are now back on regional and long-distance trains. “We have regained trust,” believes Lutz. “Based on what we know so far, it can be said that traveling by train is safe.” The group has had cleaning work intensified. However, unlike airplanes, rail cars do not have air conditioning systems that can filter viruses out of the air.

And: How safe train travel is depends to a large extent on whether the travelers also adhere to the obligation to wear a mask. Angry passengers repeatedly report that fellow passengers do not wear protective masks - and that train employees do nothing about it.

Railway boss Lutz contradicts this: The railway staff would ask travelers without a mask to put on one. If the passengers do not want that, there would be a clear regulation with the federal police to "bring about the exclusion of transport in extreme cases". But that should remain the exception.

The reservation system is still a problem. The system assigns seats one after the other, following the seat numbers, and leaves no seats free, even if this would be possible due to the occupancy. Lutz sees no problem here. “Usually the situation is that there are solutions on the train,” he says. The conductors distribute the passengers to empty seats. Deutsche Bahn does not want to change anything about this - although it can only work as long as the previous capacity is not reached.

A reservation obligation should not come, one wants to keep the flexibility, so Lutz. So that customers can avoid heavily frequented trains, the occupancy rate is displayed in the Navigator rail app when purchasing tickets.

In addition, the railway takes entire wagons from the reservation system so that spontaneous travelers have enough space. Nevertheless, passengers repeatedly experience that trains are overcrowded and that there is a dense crowd when looking for space, because the displays do not work on many trains.

Lutz assumes that as many people will only travel by train again as before the corona crisis when there is a vaccine or a drug against Covid-19. The prospects for the year as a whole are correspondingly poor. The railway expects a loss of up to 3.5 billion euros. In addition, there is a gigantic mountain of debt.

Monopolist Deutsche Bahn

At the moment it is 27.5 billion euros - up to 30 billion euros, the budget committee of the Bundestag decided in May. CFO Levin Holle assumes, however, that there will not be more lousy additions - if the federal government's announced capital increase in the billions comes in. But that is a long time coming because it still has to be approved by the EU.

Competitors of the railway consider the equity injections wrong - because they distort competition. In long-distance passenger transport, Deutsche Bahn is almost a monopoly - apart from small providers such as Flixtrain. It is different in local and freight transport. In rail freight transport, market shares are losing year after year and are now below 50 percent.

Because unlike in passenger transport, customers there can switch to competitors in the event of poor service and high prices. Uwe Höft, railway expert from the Technical University of Brandenburg, fears that the railway will "buy back market shares" with the many billions of government money.

Because instead of cooperating with competitors, it tries to steal customers from them with low prices. In order to get more traffic from the road to the rail, freight traffic has to grow overall.

The climate package and various funding laws also provide that Deutsche Bahn will receive several billion euros in the coming years. That is why it can also invest on a large scale - which is urgently needed in view of non-barrier-free access, ailing train stations and outdated infrastructure. Deutsche Bahn took over 2.8 billion euros in the first half of 2020.

Arriva is no longer well received

The federal government will also pay for the corona losses. “The federal government is right to step in,” says Dirk Flege, managing director of the pro-rail lobby organization. “In contrast to airplanes, the railways continued to run at the request of politicians. So it is only right and fair that politics compensate for the damage. "

But not all problems came with Corona. The strong international expansion of Deutsche Bahn is now taking revenge. In order to position itself as an international logistics group, it has taken over companies all over the world. She wanted to become a global player. Because the group is internationally active, the global crisis is now hitting it with full force.

The rail policy spokesman for the Greens parliamentary group Matthias Gastel demands that the federal government reposition the group in the medium term. "Deutsche Bahn should gradually part with business activities that make no contribution to the core rail business in Germany," he says.

Political course

At the end of 2019, the railway company had 320,000 employees worldwide, 198,000 of them in Germany. The largest purchase was the acquisition of the British transport company Arriva for 3 billion euros. Arriva operates in 14 European countries, mainly in local transport. Even before the crisis, the railway managers wanted to get rid of the subsidiary, but that didn't work. Now the value has fallen dramatically.

“The group is simply too big,” says university professor Höft. “There are too many construction sites.” Individual units compete with one another, such as DB Cargo, which is responsible for freight transport, and DB Schenker, which is Europe's largest trucking company.

Uwe Höft, rail expert

“The group is just too big. There are too many construction sites "

With the current structure, the problems of the railway can hardly be got under control, believes Höft. According to his ideas, the solution would be to split Deutsche Bahn into two companies: one would be responsible for driving, the transport of people and goods, the other would be responsible for the infrastructure, the rails and the stations.

Allianz Pro Schiene Managing Director Flege, on the other hand, considers setting the political course more important. In 2019, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) asked the other parties in the Bundestag to work together on a major rail reform, "but unfortunately the Transport Minister has put this initiative on hold."

One thing should be clear: even immense loss of income will not prevent the railway managers from allowing the trains to continue running in the event of a second corona wave as they did the first. Railway boss Lutz says: "We would do it the same way again."