Dhe Riedbahn between Frankfurt and Mannheim is one of the busiest railway lines in Germany. More than 300 trains cross the tracks there every day. This route will therefore also be the first to be completely renovated – and at record speed, as Deutsche Bahn claims: For five months, the state-owned company will replace all technical systems and modernize 20 stations. That gave infrastructure board Berthold Huber announced on Thursday at the fourth rail summit in Berlin.
Construction work will begin on July 15, 2024, one day after the final of the European Football Championship. Huber promised that the general renovation would be “radical”. “For the first time we are developing the network and stations from a single source, making the stations more attractive for our travelers – and completely barrier-free.” The costs amount to around half a billion euros.
During the route closure, the railway plans to divert the trains via Worms and Mainz or via Darmstadt. However, the capacity of the detour routes is limited. Buses are therefore to be used for local passenger transport, which can replace up to 200 trains a day. Unfortunately, restrictions for travelers could not be avoided during the general renovation, according to a statement. Deutsche Bahn apologizes and understands this today.
“We are aware that we are asking a lot of customers during the general renovation of the Riedbahn,” said Bahn Board Member Huber. The full closure will not lead to further chaos, emphasized the Federal Minister of Transport Volker Wissing (FDP). He compared the measure to an “operation on the main artery”, for which bypasses were already being laid on branch lines.
For the first time, the construction work on the Frankfurt-Mannheim route will no longer be carried out “while the wheel is rolling”, which has repeatedly led to significant delays in the past, as the President of the Main Association of the German Construction Industry, Peter Hübner, openly admitted at the conference. He criticized the fact that this tied up an incredible amount of capacity and that the work had not been properly prepared. All that is about to change now.
No more disruption to operations
The general refurbishment of the Riedbahn marks the start of a whole series of construction measures, with which the main corridors of the dilapidated rail network in particular are to be brought back into shape. Wissing said he expects the railways to organize replacement services in the event of route closures and to inform customers in good time. In addition, digitization of the rail network should lead to more reliability for passengers and freight transport. “I really don’t want to hear the announcement that the reason for the delay is a disruption in operations,” he demanded. Allegedly, 50 percent of all delays were due to this. However, adequately trained personnel and operational vehicles would have to be available in order to be able to drive the intended traffic.
In any case, head of the construction association Hübner asserted that the planned modernization of the network could be managed by the construction companies. “We have a lot of capacity,” he said. So far, not a single measure in the construction industry has failed. The situation there is better than with the craftsmen, who were desperately looking for skilled workers.
Freight traffic is particularly affected
Not only the passengers, but also the companies have been suffering particularly badly from the effects of the dilapidated rail system for almost a year. The many construction sites are already leading to massive disruptions, which in freight traffic sometimes lead to the failure of individual trains for days. Hours of delay are no longer uncommon there. Many companies are dependent on rail transport, emphasized Uta Maria Pfeiffer, Head of Mobility and Logistics at the Federation of German Industries (BDI). “Customers are very dissatisfied,” she warned, referring to the serious consequences of the delays for the German economy: “If a company needs three trains and only two arrive, this inevitably leads to a reduction in production.”
She emphasized that many companies are interested in transporting their products by rail instead of by truck. Many companies have set their own climate targets. After they have upgraded their production, it is now the turn of the supply chains. “The need for green logistics will continue to grow,” said Pfeiffer. According to the Network of European Railways (NEE), trucks emit six times as much CO when transporting products2 looks like rail traffic. The federal government has therefore set itself the goal of directing more freight traffic onto the rails. By 2030, the market share there is expected to grow from the current 18 percent to 25 percent. However, achieving the goal is made more difficult by the fact that more and more goods are being transported overall. The increase must therefore be significantly greater in order to achieve the goal.