German government slammed for failing to deliver on rail investment promises

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New adjustments to the German federal investment budget seem to suspend investments related to rail infrastructure. The pro-Schiene German transport association Allianz spoke of a “bitter disappointment” that leaves rail “drastically underfunded”.

The German federal government took office last November, and one of its first signs was that it would invest in rail “significantly more than in road”. The objectives of the coalition government were to reduce infrastructure charges, accelerate digital automatic coupling, strengthen single wagon traffic and promote combined transport terminals.

The federal government had declared that infrastructure investment was a key policy priority and that substantial sums would be invested in it. However, recently, the government’s budget committee has made some budgetary adjustments that do not respect the initial commitments. “The 2022 federal budget is a bitter disappointment. Rail investments are in great danger, electrification and expansion of the rail network is stagnating, and stations are dramatically underfunded,” said Dirk Flege, managing director of pro-Schiene Allianz.

Same plans as the previous government

Budget adjustments took place on Friday, May 20. The German transport and railway sector expected the new federal government to differentiate its plans from the previous government based on its manifestations. However, this is not the case. “In the so-called ‘adjustment session’, the budget committee of the German Bundestag decided early on Friday to adopt the transport budget of the previous government almost unchanged,” said pro-Schiene Allianz.

“When it comes to transport policy, the coalition government has made no effort to make a fresh start with the budget. Instead, he decided to continue the previous government’s plans. There is neither the priority of rail over road announced in the coalition agreement for investments, nor a push towards digitalisation,” underlined Dirk Flege.

Fears for missed targets

Flege also pointed to hidden dangers in the federal government’s approach. He mentioned that Germany is jeopardizing its rail and environmental goals with budget changes. “With this budget and the adopted medium-term plan, Germany can neither double the traffic performance in passenger transport targeted by the coalition agreement for 2030, nor increase the market share of the freight railways at 25%”.

Nevertheless, there is still hope that the German federal government will implement some of its commitments in the budget for 2023. At least that is what the transport sector is waiting for to avoid the “acute danger” of not not achieve their goals. “Pro-Schiene Allianz expects the government coalition to make a breakthrough to strengthen rail transport with the 2023 federal budget”. The only appropriate approach is to reverse budget cuts and increase rail infrastructure investment by billions to avoid undoing modal shift plans in Germany,” Flege concluded.

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