Coronavirus: Deutsche Bahn expects low load on long-distance transport at Easter

Deutsche Bahn expects only a fraction of the usual number of passengers in the Corona crisis until further notice. Also at Easter "no increase in volume at all" is to be expected, said Bahn boss Richard Lutz. Currently, the volume of travel is ten to 15 percent of the normal level in long-distance transport.

The train runs long-distance traffic with around 75 percent of its regular offer, the CEO continues. Against the background of border closings and other restrictions to curb the pandemic, connections abroad, domestic tourist connections and sprinter trains that are used by business travelers in particular have been temporarily removed from the timetable. Regional transport actually runs according to weekend timetables. According to Lutz, the offer has also been cut to around 65 on average Percent reduced, in many places the trains actually run according to weekend schedules. However, the train boss was convinced that, despite the further spread of the corona virus, there would be no shortages of personnel and that the timetables would not have to be thinned out: "We keep things going."

Especially in regional and local transport, thinned timetables are a problem for customers. In some places they hardly get to work anymore – or crowd in the less frequent buses and trains with numerous other passengers. Lukas Iffländer, deputy federal chairman of the Pro Bahn passenger association, said: "We have reports of overcrowded buses and trains from almost all metropolitan areas." In freight transport, the train is currently transporting "everything, but really everything that customers want to have driven," said Lutz continue. For example, although Deutsche Bahn is increasingly concentrating on supplying the grocery trade, new customers could not compensate for the decline in industrial customers and especially the car industry, which was hit by the crisis.

Bahn wants to hold on to investments and new hiresLutz emphasized the "special responsibility" of Deutsche Bahn to "make a contribution to the functioning of this society" during the crisis. In the end, however, the drop in demand would "be missing from the checkout" in all areas. A reliable forecast for this year's business figures is impossible. "Like many others, the corona pandemic will hit us very hard," said Lutz. The effects are likely to be worse than after the 2008 financial crisis. However, Deutsche Bahn wants to "hold on" to investments and new hires as part of the "Strong Rail" future program.

"Out of necessity" especially needed areas of administration, such as goodwill and cancellation processing or application procedures, are digitized faster and transferred to the Internet, emphasized Lutz. Large construction projects would continue unhindered.

The FDP politician Torsten Herbst demanded that the "modernization backlog" in the rail network be remedied as quickly as possible and that "lengthy planning and approval procedures" be accelerated, for example in the case of urgently needed bridge renovations. According to the railways, around 25,700 railway bridges in Germany are currently in need of renovation. CEO Lutz said that the need for renovations or new buildings is not a new finding and a "special focus" in corresponding financing agreements with the federal government.
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