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German Railway Estimates 1 Billion Euro in Flood Damage

The CEO of Germany's national railway estimates it will take two and a half years before 400 kilometers of destroyed track and more than 200 damaged train stations can be put back into full service.

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A severed artery: Flood damage continues to strand thousands of eastern German rail passengers

The flooding earlier this month in eastern and southern Germany hit no major company harder than Deutsche Bahn, the national railway. The company saw the tracks of some of its main lines near Dresden get washed away, train stations flooded and the collapse of crucial bridges, including one on a high-speed rail line connecting northern and southern Germany.

Appearing at the Chancellery in Berlin on Wednesday, Deutsche Bahn CEO Hartmut Mehdorn issued a preliminary estimate of over one billion euro (dollars) in flood damages.

"According to our cautious first estimates, we believe we have suffered revenue losses and damages of 1.025 billion euro," Mehdorn said. He stressed that this would not be the final damage sum.

A laundry list of damages

More than 400 kilometers of Deutsche Bahn tracks are currently unusable, and 94 bridges and 200 train stations have been badly damaged. Early estimates suggest that the service outages alone will lead to a 90 million euro ($88 million) drop in revenue from passenger and freight services. Mehdorn said it would take two and a half years before Deutsche Bahn service could return to its pre-flood level in the region.

The federal government has already agreed to provide Deutsche Bahn with 650 million euro ($638 million) to rebuild its network and repair damaged train stations. More than half the money had already been earmarked for transportation infrastructure development projects in the eastern states that were formerly part of East Germany.

Deutsche Bahn said its first reconstruction priorities would be lines in the Leipzig-Dresden-Chemnitz triangle. A line connecting Dresden with Prague will also be rebuilt as quickly as possible. Mehdorn said there are currently no plans to cancel any proposed Deutsche Bahn projects – including the planned Transrapid train line between Dortmund and Düsseldorf. New priorities, however, could lead to delays, he warned.

A job-saving deal

As part of a four-point "immediate aid" program, the government also reached an agreement with Deutsche Bahn and the Transnet union that the company would not lay off any employees between now and 2006 as a result of the flooding. Until this week's agreement, talks between the employees' union and Bahn had reached an impasse.

Mehdorn said Deutsche Bahn will reintroduce regular long-distance train service in the state of Saxony-Anhalt on Thursday and is working on a plan to reintroduce long-distance trains in Saxony as quickly as possible.

Agricultural damage estimated at 267 million euro

Separately, German Consumer Protection and Agricultural Minister Renate Künast announced the government would release 141 million euro ($138 million) between now and the end of the year in immediate aid to farmers struck by the flooding.

Künast said the government is estimating an initial 267 million euro ($262 million) in damages to farms. But the government has not yet added damages to farm buildings to its estimate.

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