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Business

Heads are poised to roll at Deutsche Bahn

German rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) looks set for a management reshuffle following a series of breakdowns on its high-speed train network. Among those to go is the long-standing CEO of DB's long-distance travel unit.

An ICE train

ICE reliability problems have harmed Deutsche Bahn's image

Nikolaus Breuel was responsible for Deutsche Bahn's main-line routes long before 1999, when the 'DB Fernverkehr' subsidiary was founded as part of the DB privatization process. And he has been in charge ever since.

Nikolaus Breuel ,

Nikolaus Breuel is expected to lose his job

But that now looks set to change. Members of DB's body of governors told the dpa news agency on Tuesday that a non-scheduled board meeting had been called for Friday to discuss personnel issues.

There has been significant speculation over the past weeks that Ulrich Homburg, managing director of DB Mobility and Logistics, which oversees the long-distance division, is unhappy with Breuel's handling of a string of glitches to hit high-speed ICE trains over the past couple of years.

The first major problem arose in 2008 when a broken axel highlighted a necessity for more frequent maintenance checks.

This led to a reduction in the number of reserve trains available on the network and saw service reliability drop as a result. Winter travelers have had to put up with regular delays and cancellations.

Medical staff help those suffering in the heat. An ICE train in the background

The heat was too much for too many passengers

Poor management

Public outrage reached a peak this summer when air conditioning in several high-speed trains failed and thousands of passengers had to be paid compensation.

In one incident, DB customers were stranded for three hours in a tunnel when their train broke down in sweltering temperatures. Several passengers had to be taken to hospital.

The combination of events has done nothing to enhance Deutsche Bahn's image, and Breuel, once pipped as a possible successor to the former CEO of the Deutsche Bahn group Hartmut Mehdorn, now looks set to take the rap.

Author: Tamsin Walker (AP, dpa)
Editor: Sam Edmonds

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