In every crisis there are winners, and the flood disaster is no exception.

Deutsche Bahn estimates the damage caused by the flood at 1.3 billion euros for the time being - and this destroyed infrastructure must be restored as soon as possible.

Not only bridge builders and transport companies come into play, but also rail infrastructure companies such as Vossloh from Werdohl in the Sauerland.

"As far as the flood damage in Germany is concerned, we will definitely benefit from it at some point - even if it is difficult to say in view of the catastrophe," says its chairman, Oliver Schuster.

Jonas Jansen

Business correspondent in Düsseldorf.

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The company is based in a town that was itself badly affected by the floods when the Lenne River overflowed its banks.

Vossloh has just invested 40 million euros in a brand new factory there - and was lucky enough not to cause any major damage.

For many years, the factory in which the company's history began in 1888 had a considerable investment backlog.

So the history lay not only in the factory, but also in the substance.

Vossloh got bogged down in its various business areas, especially the production of locomotives devoured a lot of money that was missing elsewhere.

The restructuring, in which Vossloh not only sold parts of the company such as the locomotive business, but also cut a good 7 percent of its jobs, was completed in 2019.

The turnover should now be between 900 and 950 million

Since then, confidence has been blowing through the halls again.

“Always saving and restructuring also had an effect on morale.

The colleagues also exchange ideas, which creates a bad mood, ”says Schuster.

"It's different today, now Vossloh is rushing from one record to the next."

Schuster, who has been running the company since October 2019 and was previously responsible for finances, has just raised the forecast for the year.

The turnover should be between 900 and 950 million euros, previously it had assumed a corridor between 850 and 925 million euros.

At 462.6 million euros, revenues in the first half of the year were almost 18 percent above the previous year's figure of 393.2 million euros.

Even if the significantly higher material prices will put pressure on earnings, especially in the second half of the year, which is why Vossloh continues to expect the EBIT margin to be between 7 and 8 percent, Schuster is very satisfied with the profitability of the business.

“We have increased our competitiveness dramatically through the restructuring program.

It pays off. "

Vossloh is benefiting from increased construction activity in rail transport

The new factory is intended to make an important contribution to this, as Vossloh now produces much more of what was previously purchased there. Certain plastics are developed there, the screws also come from our own production at another plant. "We are increasingly getting the margins that our suppliers have made in-house and are therefore much more powerful than in the past," says Schuster.

Around 40 million tension clamps are produced in Werdohl each year. With its fastenings for rails, Vossloh used to be a monopoly and was then pushed back in competition. With a major order for Deutsche Bahn, the Sauerland region has once again established itself as the market leader in this area. “Thanks to the production cost advantage, we were much more competitive in Germany. That would not have been possible without the investment in the lead factory, ”says Schuster.

Even if many state railways are a bit hesitant about maintaining the infrastructure due to the Corona crisis - this is the case in France and Germany, for example - Vossloh generally benefits from increased construction activity in rail transport. “The interest in our products is extremely high at the moment because we are seeing investment support programs on an unprecedented level,” says Schuster. "They come on the one hand for sustainability reasons and on the other hand from the aim of stimulating the economy again after Corona."

In the past six months, the impetus came primarily from China, where business is picking up again after the corona pandemic.

The rail fastening systems that Vossloh manufactures in its factory near Shanghai in a joint venture are mainly needed at the end of a project.

“The special thing about China is the extraordinarily good profitability, where we are currently mainly active in the attractive high-speed segment.

The customer wants us to deliver the best of all conceivable qualities and is willing to pay good money for it, ”says Schuster.

Cooperations with Chinese corporations

A serious train accident ten years ago changed the view of what the rail infrastructure has to do. In addition to the high-speed business, Vossloh recently founded a second joint venture with a private Chinese company that focuses on local transport. “It will take some time to gain a foothold there, but we will achieve that,” Schuster is convinced.

The Vossloh boss hopes that the cooperation will also provide impetus for other business areas. So far, Vossloh has only manufactured tension clamps that are cold-bent at room temperature. The new partner also has the technology to warmly bend thicker steel rods. “For decades, Vossloh only served one half of the world market, now our potential market volume for rail fastening systems has just doubled.” That is why Vossloh now also supplies customers in the United States from the plant in China.