Too few trains, too few staff and an enormous backlog of investments: What train drivers feel every day is confirmed by internal documents of the company, which are contrasting with the  ARD magazine . Accordingly, only a meager 20 percent of the ICE are “fully functional”. This striking figure can be found in the Supervisory Board documents of the DB subsidiary Fernverkehr from June 2018.

Although since 2016 significantly more trains with damage have been processed in the maintenance facilities, it is said in the current board presentation for today’s special meeting of the DB Supervisory Board – the speech is nevertheless of an increase of 45 percent.

ARCHIV – Ein Zugbegleiter eines ICE nach Wien gibt am 06.11.2014 im Bahnhof Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe das Signal für die Abfahrt. Unpünktliche Züge sind das größte Ärgernis von Bahnfahrern.

Obsolete, late, and overloaded

Internal documents,  reveal the shortcomings of the German railways 

Too few trains, too few staff and an enormous backlog of investments: What train drivers feel every day is confirmed by internal documents of the company, which are contrasting with the  ARD magazine . Accordingly, only a meager 20 percent of the ICE trains are “fully functional”.


The railway wants to improve the maintenance and repair of their trains as quickly as possible. The Supervisory Board of the Group have been to “detailed and comprehensive proposals submitted,” said a spokesman. The control committee of the group wants to come together in the afternoon in Berlin for a two-day closed meeting. 

The spokesman did not want to comment on the report of the  ARD magazine Kontraste  . He added, however, that a train would already be considered “not faultless” in the statistics, if a car door is defective or a coffee maker is not working. 

But it is also clear: “We are not satisfied with the current state of troubleshooting in our train fleet”. Therefore, one wants to build additional resources for the maintenance and repair of the trains at short notice.


But this success would be “overcompensated” because “the damage received in the same period increased”, so more ICE trains with damage in the workshop arrived. As a result, the number of ICE’s that leave the workshop with defects even increased by 17 percent.

On German railroad as reason among other things the “high entrance delay” from the enterprise is called, what in normal German means: ICE arrive also in the maintenance work late, the workshop time becomes scarce. Only work is done, which is safety-relevant, the rest remains. And so it happens that sometimes for days the same ICE with broken toilets, defective air conditioners or coffee machines are traveling. A vicious circle.

Contrasts research: only 20 percent of all ICE fully functional

“Inverted wagon rows” cause delays small errors add up over the course of the day to ever greater delays: For example, the famous “reverse wagon series” often creates chaotic scenes on the platform. The boarding is delayed, the train starts with delay and the disaster takes its course. The spectacle is repeated at each station, the delays add up.

Behind the phenomenon “Wagenreihung” hide an enormous problem, say train attendants: The “night readiness” at the stations are no longer sufficiently occupied, so there is no standby locomotive driver who undertakes the night turn .


From an important goal, the train apparently adopted in view of the variety of problems. The desired punctuality rate of 82 percent of all journeys should no longer be reached in 2018, but only in 2025, as the documents show that there are  contrasts . Currently, the rate is just 73 percent.

The problems with punctuality have personal and technical causes. For example, more than 5,000 people are missing in the mission-critical area, ie train drivers, train attendants, maintenance staff and IT specialists. The chairman of the union of German locomotive drivers, Claus Weselsky, responded with sharp criticism: The railway system threatens to “collapse” if it has to endure over years  with austerity programs.


In almost all production-critical areas  DB are plagued by enormous capacity problems: The network is at the load limit, it says in the documents – and the “high investment backlog and modernization needs.” After  contrasts research, the investment backlog in the existing network amounts to around 32 billion euros. Also a consequence of the fact that only two years ago the federal government increased the funds needed to maintain the network.


Particularly serious are the bottlenecks at major roads, through which the freight, regional and long distance services must be like to wade through a needle’s eye: According to the  contrasts these documents go 50 percent of the delays in long-distance traffic on congested routes and transport nodes in the metropolitan areas of Cologne-Dortmund , Mannheim-Frankfurt-Fulda, Hamburg and Nuremberg-Würzburg back. There are no additional tracks, overtaking facilities, points, modern signaling technology and entire bridges, for example, over the Rhine and Main. This problem has been known about for 15 years, but was ignored by the former Federal Transport Ministers. The federal government is responsible for maintaining and expanding the network.

DB chief Richard Lutz acknowledged this week “growing pains” due to capacity constraints, an increased passenger volume and additional freight transport on the routes. He now wants to hire thousands of new employees.



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