10. September 2009

Regional railways break all records

Pro-Rail Alliance presents Germany’s railway successes

The number one: Regiobahn in NRW

Berlin. 15 years after the reform of the railways, the German Pro-Rail Alliance is presenting the country’s most successful regional railways. Its conclusion: the railways are making good progress. In the space of a few years, the growth in passenger numbers in the 15 selected railway lines from each of Germany’s states proves that even lines threatened with closure can develop into real passenger attractions if the services on offer are matched to customers’ needs. The recipes for success can be found by looking at the 15 case studies portrayed in the booklet ‘Stadt, Land, Schiene’ (‘Town, Country, Railway’), which is being presented today in Berlin. In short: efficient infrastructure, frequent scheduling, good connections, modern rolling stock, simple pricing, customer-orientation and operating companies with a regional background.

Top of the class in terms of passenger growth – a phenomenal 3790 percent – is the Regiobahn (North Rhine-Westphalia), which has been operating since 1998 between Kaarst and Mettmann. The UBB Seaside Railway on Usedom (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) has seen an increase of 1086 percent since 1992. After decades of neglect, both lines were still suffering in the 1990s from falling passenger numbers and threats of line closure. However, new trains and modernised infrastructure enabled shorter journey times and a higher train frequency. The success that was brought about by the improved services immediately exceeded all expectations. At peak times, the Regiobahn and the UBB run almost at full capacity.

The City-Bahn in Chemnitz (Saxony) has also seen considerable growth on the line through the Erz Mountains between Chemnitz and Stollberg. It previously had only few passengers. Since 1998, the number of passengers has increased by 886 percent. Another service that had been declared dead was the Taunusbahn (Hesse) which runs between Brandoberndorf and Bad Homburg with connections to Frankfurt am Main. The Taunusbahn service is now so successful (increase: 633 percent) that its trains are regularly overcrowded. The line Osnabrück – Vechta – Bremen, which is now used by the Nordwestbahn service (Lower Saxony), is enjoying record passenger numbers, with an increase of 560 percent since 1998. Line closure could only be prevented because of a successful campaign by the railway customer organisation Pro Bahn and the environmental group NABU. Today, the Nordwestbahn, just like the Bavarian Oberlandbahn (growth: 233 percent since 1997), is quite evidently one of the most successful regional train services in Germany. “If the service being offered is good, there will be a flood of passengers,” said the manager of the Pro-Rail Alliance, Dirk Flege. It remains a mystery therefore why there are regular cuts to federal budget for the regions, used by the states to fund the regional railways. “After the general election, we will be calling on politicians to provide a clear commitment to the railways,” said Flege. Putting a figure on it, Flege continued: “Regional funding must be increased by 2.5 percent annually instead of the currently proposed 1.5 percent.”

Rapid transit railways in metropolitan areas have always been spoilt by success. The line Schifferstadt – Germersheim on the S-Bahn RheinNeckar (Rhineland Palatinate) demonstrates how high-performing services can increase passenger numbers relatively quickly (48 percent since 2003). The case studies presented by the Pro-Rail Alliance also show that it is a fallacy that states with a population thinly spread over a large area cannot have regional rail services. The line Orlamünde – Pößneck on the Orlabahn railway (Thuringia) has been able to increase passenger numbers by 208 percent since 1997. In addition, the Burgenlandbahn (Saxony-Anhalt), the Prignitzer Eisenbahn and the Prignitz Express (Brandenburg) were also able to notch up considerable increases in difficult terrain: Burgenlandbahn – plus 69 percent, Prignitzer Eisenbahn – plus 140 percent, Prignitz Express – plus 183 percent. Even though the actual numbers of passengers cannot match the volume reached in metropolitan areas, the trend is still clearly positive for the railways in large, thinly populated areas.

Passengers regularly respond positively to the planning carried out by the regional rail transport authorities and train operating companies. The Gäubahn route between Eutingen and Freudenstadt (Baden-Württemberg) is shared by two operators who offer customers hourly services. Passengers showed their appreciation with growth of 180 percent. The Saarbahn (Saarland) has been operating cross-border services since 1997 and provides announcements in both German and French. Growth: 56 percent. The Gräfenbahn railway (Bavaria), which had already been written off as dead, saw an increase of 183 percent after it began transporting commuters to Nuremberg on weekdays and enticing day-trippers out into the countryside on the weekends. The Schleswig-Holstein-Bahn, with its blue, white and red paintwork is not just particularly pretty. It can also be considered to be a pioneer among Germany’s successful rail operators. Long before the reform of the railways, the state of Schleswig Holstein and the railway’s operator joined forces to create a modern railway service. The passengers voted with their feet and rewarded the SHB with growth of 86 percent. “Our compilation of case studies clearly shows that people in Germany want more rail transport,” said the railway alliance’s managing director Flege. “It is about time that politicians got over their fixation with the roads. That will be better for their budgets, our nerves and for the environment.”

Additional information

  • The booklet ‘Stadt, Land, Schiene’ will be presented to the public at 10:30 today in the presence of the Federal Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee (SPD).
  • A discussion will then take place with Joachim Korn (Regiobahn), Jörgen Boße (Usedomer Bäderbahn), Heino Seeger (Bavarian Oberlandbahn), Jörg Schneider (NABU Lower Saxony), Hans-Joachim Menn (Landesnahverkehrsgesellschaft Lower Saxony).
  • The Pro-Rail Alliance will be represented by: Klaus-Dieter Hommel (chairman) and Dirk Flege (managing director)

Baden-Württemberg | Gäubahn

The Gäubahn Railway effortlessly crosses three mighty viaducts between Eutingen and Freudenstadt. Often pronounced dead, the traditional line was rejuvenated when it was electrified in 2006. DB Regio and AVG offer hourly services every day of the week, which has helped bring the northern Black Forest area nearer to the Stuttgart and Karlsruhe conurbations.

Operator: DB Regio AG and Albtal-Verkehrs-Gesellschaft (AVG)
Passengers 2006 to 2008: + 180 %
Picture source: Albtal-Verkehrs-Gesellschaft mbH

Bavaria | Gräfenbergbahn

The cherry-red Gräfenbergbahn owes its salvation to a pugnacious citizens’ campaign and a resourceful district administrator who took school pupils off the buses and put them back on to the trains. Today, the completely modernised line North-East Nuremberg – Gräfenberg is one of Bavaria’s prestige railways. Hourly trains also run at the weekend.

Operator: DB Regio AG, Regio Mittelfranken
Passengers 2000 to 2007: + 161 %
Picture source: Die Gräfenbergbahn

Bavaria | Bayerische Oberlandbahn

In Bavaria, the BOB is almost a part of the landscape. After initial difficulties, the modern ‘portion working’ train system today offers passengers connections to Munich without the need to change trains. Hourly trains – every half hour at peak times – have won the support of passengers. ‘One of the best’ was the verdict of the consumer magazine ‘Stiftung Warentest’.

Operator: Bayerische Oberlandbahn GmbH
Passengers 1997 to 2007: + 233 %
Picture source: Bayerische Oberlandbahn

Brandenburg | Prignitzer Eisenbahn

After German unification, two former train drivers from the Reichsbahn decided to make railway history and founded their own company with decommissioned rolling stock. The Prignitzer Eisenbahn is adapted to the needs of the thinly populated region, runs on biodiesel and enjoys growing passenger numbers. Its logo self-confidently proclaims “Ein guter Zug”, which in German means both a good train and a good move (as in chess).

Operator: Prignitzer Eisenbahn GmbH (Arriva)
Passengers 2001 to 2008: + 140 %
Picture source: Prignitzer Eisenbahn

Brandenburg | Prignitz Express

Cattle trucks travelling at 30 km/h on rickety tracks – that was yesterday. Under the heading “Zielnetz 2000” (‘Network Target 2000’) the state of Brandenburg successfully prevented the East Prignitz region from being cut off from Berlin. The Prignitz Express now speeds along at 120 km/h on a completely refurbished track. The shortened journey times have led to a three-fold increase in passengers.

Operator: DB Regio AG, Regio Nordost
Passengers 2000 to 2008: + 183 %
Picture source: DB AG/ Hans-Joachim Kirsche

Hesse | Taunusbahn

In order to save the good old ‘Hexenexpress’ the district of Hochtaunus mobilised itself and bought the line Grävenwiesbach – Friedrichsdorf from the Bundesbahn (former Deutsche Bahn). The subsequent modernisation proved very worthwhile. Hoards of commuters in the conurbation Frankfurt am Main now leave their cars at home, especially when it is stormy and snowing in Taunus.

Operator: Hessische Landesbahn GmbH (HLB)
Passengers 1989 to 2008: + 633 %
Picture source: U. Erle

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern | Usedomer Bäderbahn

The blue and white Seaside Railway on Usedom dominates the whole island. So much in fact that almost nobody realises that the line was due to be closed in 1992. The long, hard battle fought by several Deutsche Bahn employees eventually paid dividends – connections with the mainland, refurbished tracks, new rolling stock, a station in Swinemünde on the Polish side of the island all helped transform the UBB into a magnet for passengers. The goal for 2009 – four million passengers annually.

Operator: Usedomer Bäderbahn GmbH and UBB Polska
Passengers 1992 to 2008: + 1086 %
Picture source: Usedomer Bäderbahn GmbH

Lower Saxony | NordWestBahn

The line Osnabrück – Vechta – Bremen used to be a classic case of how best to scare off customers. Ever fewer trains and closed at the weekends. Citizens fought a campaign against its demise. Today, the NordWest Railway runs hourly trains and is one of the sector’s economic ‘locomotives’

Operator: NordWestBahn GmbH
Passengers 1998 to 2008: + 560 %
Picture source: NordWestBahn GmbH

North Rhine-Westphalia | Regiobahn

The term ‘success’ is too modest. The Regiobahn is quite clearly top of its class. Since 1998, passenger numbers on the Kaarst – Mettmann line have literally exploded. The recipe for success is a well-filled timetable: trains run every 20 minutes. They were so full at peak times that new trains had to be purchased. If local and state politicians finally get their act together, the Regiobahn could soon be extended to Wuppertal.

Operator: RBE GmbH on behalf of Regiobahn Fahrbetriebs GmbH
Passengers 1998 to 2008: + 3790 %
Picture source: Regiobahn

Rheinland-Palatinate | S-Bahn RheinNeckar

The rapid transit railway RheinNeckar connects three federal states and has fused Mannheim, Ludwigshafen and Heidelberg into a metropolitan region. The line Germersheim – Ludwigshafen has also profited from the new connections to the three cities. The result: passenger numbers continue to grow – to high levels

Operator: DB Regio AG, Regio RheinNeckar
Passengers 2003 to 2008: + 48 %
Picture source: Fritz Engbarth

Saarland | Saarbahn

Bus or train. The citizens of Saarbrücken had the choice and voted for the railway. The Saarbahn was carefully planned and combines trains with the tram. Citizens were even allowed to have a say on the design. In customer surveys it has achieved top marks since it began operations in 1997.

Operator: Saarbahn GmbH
Passengers 1997 to 2008: + 56 %
Picture source: SaarBahn and Bus

Saxony | City-Bahn Chemnitz

Chemnitz has always been an important intersection. The only blemish is that the central train station is slightly out of the way. The solution was to combine the trains with the tram system – the so-called Chemnitz model. Trains now run every 30 minutes, with the response from customers to the improved service being impressive passenger growth

Operator: City Bahn Chemnitz GmbH
Passengers 1998 to 2008: + 886 %
Picture source: City-Bahn Chemnitz GmbH

Saxony-Anhalt | Burgenlandbahn

The situation for the railways after reunification was more than difficult. Nevertheless, Saxony-Anhalt did want to give up its railways in thinly populated areas. On the line Merseburg – Querfurt , the Burgenlandbahn defied the trend towards more roads by offering clean, punctual trains and excellent service.

Operator: Elbe-Saale Burgenlandbahn
Passengers 1998 to 2008: + 69 %
Picture source: Burgenlandbahn

Schleswig-Holstein | Schleswig-Holstein-Bahn

Long before the reform of the railways, a transport policy miracle happened in Schleswig Hostein. State and operators joined forces to thoroughly modernise the traditional line Neumünster – Heide – Büsum. The Schleswig Holstein Railway has been operating since 2003, with growing success.

Operator: Schleswig-Holstein-Bahn GmbH
Passengers 2001 to 2008: + 86 %
Picture source: Schleswig-Holstein-Bahn GmbH

Thuringia | Orlabahn

The nicer the landscape, the harder business becomes. Although the Orlabahn on the line Orlamünde – Pößneck was threatened with closure until the mid 1990s, state politicians saw its potential and decided to completely refurbish it. Since 2000, it now offers connections to Jena without the need to change trains. The response has been a significant growth in passenger numbers.

Operator: DB Regio AG, Regio Südost
Passengers 1997 to 2008: + 208 %
Picture source: DB Regio

Allianz pro Schiene is the German alliance for the promotion of environmentally friendly and safe rail transport. It unites 16 non-profit organisations: the environmental organisations BUND, NABU, Deutsche Umwelthilfe and NaturFreunde Deutschlands; the consumer groups Pro Bahn, DBV and VCD; the automobile clubs ACE and ACV; the three rail unions TRANSNET, GDBA and GDL as well as the rail organisations BDEF, BF Bahnen, VBB and VDEI. Its member associations represent more than 2 million individual members. Allianz pro Schiene is supported by 93 companies operating in the rail sector.