When Hans Leister talks about the German Act, he does it with the serenity of a 67-year-old whose convictions have prevailed. His vision is to become reality, that's been clear since last fall. From 2030, Deutsche Bahn intends to arrive at the major interchange stations at approximately the same time and leave all trains. Long transfer times were then a thing of the past. This also applies to regional traffic, so that rural regions also benefited. Every 30 minutes are also long-distance trains between the 30 largest German city traffic. Always at the same minute as an S-Bahn.
To make it happen, you need to invest heavily in a complex construction project. Already, experts doubt that the German cycle can be implemented in ten years. But that does not worry Hans Leister, who co-founded the Initiative Deutschlandtakt. For him, the most important thing is: For a long time there has finally been another vision for Deutsche Bahn.
Hans Leister, co-founder of the Initiative Deutschlandtakt © Privat
From 1994 to 2000, Leister worked for the railway himself, serving as Regional Director for Berlin and Brandenburg. Then he switched to a private competitor - and had to watch how the network of Deutsche Bahn was saved in the run-up to the planned IPO. Here an evasive track was removed, where a switch was removed and the trees along the routes were no longer trimmed properly. "If you save on maintenance, you can make the railroad wonderfully profitable for a few years," says Leister. Just destroy it so the basics for reliable operation.
At some point Leister did not want to stand idly by this development. With admiration he looked at Switzerland. On a kilometer track there are on average twice as many trains on the road as in Germany - and almost always punctually. Travelers also have perfect connections everywhere. "The passengers are passed on in a staggering manner," enthuses Leister. The secret of the Swiss: the clock timetable. That's what Leister wished for Deutsche Bahn and founded the Initiative Deutschlandtakt in 2008 with some of his colleagues.
Even the small towns are to be reached faster
The idea behind the clock schedule is very simple, says Leister. Instead of the fastest possible driving times between the cities, the focus is on the travel chains. Because long-distance and regional trains arrive and depart at about the same time at the station, it is no longer just a quick trip from Hamburg to Berlin or from Munich to Cologne. But also from Kiel to Cottbus and from Rosenheim to Euskirchen. The travelers are faster at the destination. So Leister wanted to convince the politicians that it is worthwhile to invest in the route network, instead of just always saving.
First of all, it needs an ideal timetable: how should the trains run to give perfect transfer connections everywhere? Then a targeted expansion is needed on exactly those routes where the trains are still too slow for the ideal timetable. In addition, the big stations and their access roads have to be upgraded so that all trains can get into the station at the same time. Because bottlenecks disappear in this way, more trains can travel on the same network.
"That does not fit in the back and the front"
The implementation of the German tact thus works like this: first the roadmap, then the expansion. In Germany, things have always been the other way around - with sometimes fatal consequences. For example, at the often celebrated new high-speed line between Munich and Berlin: It was built with an almost state-supporting goal: German unity was to be completed. Berlin and Munich as well as Franconia, Thuringia and Saxony should finally come closer together again.
Above all, the planners had a requirement: The travel time between Munich and Berlin should fall. They only considered how many trains should run on the track during the day, but not when the trains were running. A new, Germany-wide timetable, which integrates the new route, was designed in 2013 shortly before completion. "And then we realized: That does not fit in the back and the front," says Leister, who was then working in the working group. A mobile plan, they would finally only found with many painful compromises.
Once you understand that rail traffic follows the logic of the hourly clock, these problems could have been foreseen, says Leister. Between Nuremberg and Erfurt, the ICE currently needs exactly 65 minutes. Good connections can only exist in one of the two cities.