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Bus for rail replacement services: Enough vehicles - but bus drivers are missing

Photo: Friso Gentsch/ dpa

From the point of view of the railway and transport union (EVG), the shortage of bus drivers is the central problem in the general renovation of important rail corridors from next year. "Sufficient vehicles have been ordered for the replacement service," EVG boss Martin Burkert told the German Press Agency. "But as far as the staff is concerned, the situation is much more difficult."

It starts next summer on the Ried Railway between Frankfurt and Mannheim. The important long-distance corridor will be completely closed for around five months and completely renovated. To ensure that passengers can still get to the neighbouring regions, Deutsche Bahn has ordered around 400 replacement buses. The EVG doubts that there will be enough drivers available for this. "It's not just about salary issues, but also about working conditions," Burkert emphasized. "This is an enormous challenge that must be overcome, not just for one year, but every year until at least 2030."

Until then, Deutsche Bahn wants to completely renovate almost 40 more rail corridors. After the Ried Railway, it will be the turn of the Berlin-Hamburg and Emmerich-Oberhausen routes in 2025. The federal government has pledged to finance the renovation projects with an additional 2027 billion euros until 40.

Starting next year, the rail infrastructure, which is currently operated by the Deutsche Bahn subsidiary DB Netz, is to be transferred to a new infrastructure company committed to the common good. The company, called Infrago, will remain under the umbrella of Deutsche Bahn. However, the federal government is to be given more far-reaching supervisory and control options. This is intended to free the new company from profit pressure. For critics, this step does not go far enough. In particular, the Greens and the Union have called for a break-up of the group and a complete separation between the infrastructure and the operation.

The EDC had always opposed such a move. "The Infrago is the compromise to prevent the break-up of Deutsche Bahn," said Burkert. "For us, it is crucial that the interests of the employees are safeguarded and that the promised financing for the general renovation is also provided." The Supervisory Board of Deutsche Bahn is to vote on the final set-up and structure of Infrago this Wednesday.