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Germany

Deutsche Bahn feels the heat at crisis meeting

Following the breakdown of air conditioning in passenger trains during last week's heat wave in Germany, rail operator Deutsche Bahn faces a host of difficult questions at a crisis meeting in Berlin on Thursday.

Tracks at Frankfurt's main station

CEO Grube faces a host of difficult questions on Thursday

Germany's national rail operator, Deutsche Bahn, is under fire on a number of fronts as it prepares for a crisis meeting with government officials on a recent scandal involving overheated passenger trains.

Deutsche Bahn CEO Rudiger Grube will face questions on Thursday from Germany's transport minister, Peter Ramsauer, and representatives of the government's transport and consumer protection commission.

In addition to explaining his company's reasons for the Hitze-Chaos (heat chaos), as it's being referred to in Germany media, Grube will have to defend recent comments he made regarding the quality of trains produced by German manufacturers.

An ICE train on the tracks with the sun in the background

Deutsche Bahn and the ICE train manufacturers blame each other for the 'heat chaos'

Industry 'irritated'

Grube said on Wednesday in reference to manufacturers of the Inter City Express (ICE) trains - which due to malfunctioning air conditioning resulted in temperatures of over 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in dozens of models - that Deutsche Bahn had "almost never received trains that performed the services for which we paid."

The head of the German Railway Industry Association, Ronald Poerner, told the Berliner Zeitung daily he was "very surprised and irritated" by Grube's "unjustified" accusations regarding the quality of ICE trains.

"Our manufacturers do not produce trash, or any trains with any system malfunctions," Poerner said, adding that the Deutsche Bahn had itself already stated that "no such faults in construction, especially in train air conditioning, had been observed."

Moreover, Poerner said the malfunctioning that led to the overheated trains was most likely caused by improper maintenance, the realization of which is the "exclusive responsibility of Deutsche Bahn."

EMTs take away in a stretcher a passenger with heat stroke

500 euros were offered in compensation for passengers that had to be taken to the hospital

Further complaints

Meanwhile, the chairman of Germany's train drivers' union, Claus Weselsky, has criticized other comments made recently by Grube regarding the "poor reaction" of Deutsche Bahn employees to the situation in the overheated trains.

"I speak for all Deutsche Bahn employees when I say that I am angry about these comments. Perfect crisis management cannot be expected from the last link of the chain while the executives themselves are hidden away behind closed doors," Weselsky said in the Thursday edition of the daily Passauer Neue Presse.

Deutsche Bahn's treatment of the passengers who suffered in the overheated trains is another topic that is certain to come up at Thursday's meeting.

The company has offered 500 euros ($640) in compensation to all passengers who required medical treatment as a result of the unbearable temperatures. This has been met with strong criticism from the Pro Bahn organization that represents the interests of railway passengers in Germany.

Pro Bahn chairman Joachim Kemnitz said on Thursday in the Berliner Zeitung that the passengers should not settle for this "unacceptable" offer.

"Five hundred euros won't even cover these people's ambulance costs," Kemnitz said.

Author: Gabriel Borrud (AFP/dpa)
Editor: Rob Turner

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