There must have been a lot of frustration built up when a German manager sends a written message that he is slowly losing patience because the "madness" continues.

The managing director of the Bayerische Regiobahn, Arnulf Schuchmann, obviously had no desire for well-tended rhetoric and subtle diplomacy recently.

He uninhibitedly denounced what he considered to be “absolutely chaotic” construction site management and the “desolate” state of the rail network in southern Bavaria.

There is a "state of emergency".

Such verbal outbursts of emotion are rather rare in the economy - and yet the situation around Ammersee, Altmühltal and Oberland should not be an isolated case, but rather symptomatic of the situation in all of Germany. It is well known that the track infrastructure, some of which is more than a century old, urgently needs to be renewed. The question, however, is: does it happen as optimally as it could and should be? The response of the critics so far: no.

This also has to do with the structure of the railway system in this country.

With the rail reform of 1994 it was hoped to get more traffic onto the rails and to reduce the record high level of debt.

Decades later, Deutsche Bahn, which emerged from the railway reform - which was privatized on paper as a stock corporation, but is still a state railway with 100 percent federal ownership - considers the result to be a great success.

Too much progress for the traffic light

Many disagree. The Federal Audit Office sums up both goals. And it is not just the Monopolies Commission that repeatedly calls for the DB Group to be split up - into a part that drives the trains and a part that takes care of the infrastructure. Because, according to the critics: there is always a conflict of interest in an integrated company. A DB Netz AG is suspected of giving preference to the train operator DB at the expense of its private competitors. The money raised ends up in the same balance sheet. And if a network operator is profit-oriented, he does not always make the best decisions for the general public when it comes to expensive expansions and renovations - see Bavarian Oberland.

With the general election, all of these questions came back on the agenda after the grand coalition had neglected rail policy. Therefore, many hopeful looks turned to the negotiations of the three traffic light parties. Almost 28 years after the first rail reform, these were to initiate a second one. But instead of a reform, the SPD, the Greens and the FDP have at most brought a little reform into the rails. The big hit failed to materialize, although the coalition agreement sounds full-bodied that it wants to “dare to make more progress”.

For the coalition, splitting up the railway was too much progress.

They want to keep DB as an integrated publicly owned group.

At least everything should not stay as it is.

The infrastructure units responsible for the network and the stations will be merged within the company into a new infrastructure division.

This should work “oriented towards the common good”, but the actual railway companies should work “market and profit-oriented”.

This fulfills an important requirement of the critics.

Because the profits from the operation of the railways will in future remain in the new infrastructure unit and will be reinvested in the infrastructure.

Cross-subsidization within the group should therefore be history.

The railway, the "backbone of mobility"

Will that make everything better in terms of rail? The new government partners have chosen the railway to be the "backbone of mobility". The expectations of the means of transport as a climate saver are high. The number of long-distance passengers is expected to double by 2030, a German clock promises unprecedented comfort, and the share of rail in freight traffic is to increase from 18 to 25 percent,

But doubts are in order.

Some competitors fear major announcements and a “lull in enforcement” as in the past.

On Wednesday, a new report by the Federal Audit Office also caused a stir.

The authority criticizes, among other things, a non-transparent profit transfer of the group to the federal government as well as conflicts of interests of MPs around the railway.

This seems to confirm what skeptics have always suspected: the state representatives themselves do not really know what they want with the half-heartedly privatized railway and how to deal with it.

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