Monday, August 12, 2013

Deutsche Bahn Experiencing Problems with Signalling Control

Deutsche Bahn (DB), the German, state owned railway provider is experiencing massive problems due to a lack of train dispatchers. The high number of people calling in sick forced Deutsche Bahn to reduce the amount of trains stopping in Mainz. What began with less trains at night in Mainz, the capital of Rhineland-Palatinate, has now also affected railway traffic during the day, which also now is beginning to hit at least one more state.

According to DB, all of the Rhine-Main arrea and southern parts of Hessonia are affected. But, it is possible that the situation could worsen all over Germany, since train dispatchers are in short supply. DB is now planning to train 600 new employees for the job. The company believes that it will be able to solve the issues next month, in part by trying to call  back workers currently on vacation.

If one thinks that this is a story of the state being less efficient that private corporation, one is dead wrong. The Company is still completely state owned, but it was planned to privatise it in 2008, which had to be called off due to the financial crisis. The firm is acting like a private company, and the current CEO Grube was, before joining DB responsible for Daimler in Northeast Asia (China, Korea) and development. There has been a strong push towards higher efficiency through reducing the number of workers especially in DB Netz, which is responsible for the infrastructure and therefore signalling control.

In fact, even though DB is not privatised, yet, one can already see that the critics, who feared, worse service, a lack in infrastructure investment especially in smaller train stations, and reduced number of trains stopping in smaller towns, were right. The public sector still has to finance large parts of the railway infrastructure projects, which was also an expected result of the attempted privatisation. Most critics called for keeping the infrastructure public, to not only prevent these issues, but also make a functional market possible, where smaller railway companies would not have to pay fees to the current monopolist, for using railways paid for with public funds.

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