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Bahn board: punctuality as in Japan unattainable


The punctuality of trains in Japan is world-renowned – and according to the DB Group, not achievable in Germany. The rail network in this country is not designed for this, according to Deutsche Bahn board member Peterson.

The railways in Germany are a long way from the punctuality of Japanese trains – and the DB Group also considers comparable reliability to be unrealistic. A punctuality of 99 percent as in Japan is not achievable in this country, said Michael Peterson, responsible for long-distance passenger transport, the “Augsburger Allgemeine”. “In Germany, freight, regional and long-distance trains share the same rail network. This concept is not designed for 99 percent punctuality.”

After the completion of many construction sites, the railway hopes to reach more than 80 percent again in the foreseeable future, said the manager. An important stage is the renovation of the railway line between Frankfurt am Main and Mannheim by the end of 2024. “And with the commissioning of Stuttgart 21 at the end of 2025, many journey times in long-distance traffic will be reduced,” said Peterson. “By 2030, the railway will be significantly better year by year and step by step.” The train customers need a little more patience with the train. “But it won’t be decades before the railway is in a much better condition than it is today.”

Every minute counts on the Shinkansen

In Japan, the railway still strictly adheres to the traditional “imperial” punctuality. Japan’s Shinkansen bullet train, for example, is rarely delayed – except for natural disasters such as earthquakes. If there are short delays of less than a minute, this leads to repeated apologies to the passengers.

The case of a train driver who was deducted 40 cents from his wages for a minimal delay of just one minute caused a sensation last year. He sued against it, won the process and got the 40 cents back – but no compensation.

According to Deutsche Bahn, on the other hand, a stop is considered punctual if the scheduled arrival time is exceeded by less than 6 or 16 minutes. The many construction sites are currently slowing down rail traffic considerably, said Bahn Board Member Peterson. “Currently, almost 70 percent of long-distance trains pass through at least one construction site.” Nevertheless, according to him, around 65 percent arrive on time. “By the way, that would be unthinkable for construction sites on the Autobahn.”

general renovations on many routes

Important routes such as Mannheim-Frankfurt or Hamburg-Berlin are being renovated and completely closed for many months. Passengers who travel by train during the summer holidays have to expect delays, diversions and cancellations on many routes due to repairs.

At the end of March, the heads of the Berlin traffic light coalition had determined that the railways would need around 45 billion euros to cover the investment requirements by 2027. The focus is on general renovations: More than 40 particularly stressed and important routes are to be completely closed for almost half a year each in order to repair everything that needs to be repaired in one go: stations, overhead lines, rails, switches and much more.