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Deutsche Bahn warns of worst-ever losses

June 30, 2020

State-owned German rail operator Deutsche Bahn has said the COVID-19 pandemic has plunged it into its worst-ever financial crisis. The company says talks with worker representatives to find savings will begin this week.

The Deutsche Bahn logo on a train
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Hoppe

Chief executive Richard Lutz on Tuesday said the state rail operator was hemorrhaging cash "in the three-digit-millions" each month, and that the situation was set to persist until at least December.

"In the current business year, this will lead to the biggest operating loss in the history of DB," Lutz wrote in a letter to employees. 

"We expect impacts totaling billions stemming from the coronavirus in the following years, too," he said.

A massive drop in traffic, in large part because of the travel restrictions imposed by Berlin to control the coronavirus' spread, has drained Deutsche Bahn (DB) of revenue.

Ministers have since agreed that passenger numbers should "double" by 2030 as part of a broader scheme to boost rail transport.

Politicians would like to see DB built up as a way to slash the environmental impact of Germany's highly polluting transport sector.

Job losses ruled out for now

In early June, Berlin stepped in with around €5 billion ($5.6 billion) to keep the rail operator afloat.

However, bosses will also have to find savings to clean up their finances, including €2 billion in labor costs.

"All stakeholders have to be part of the solution. Board members and managers, but also all employees," CEO Lutz said ahead of talks with rail workers' union EVG, set to begin this week.

The union has reassured employees that job losses are ruled out for the time after signing a deal with executives earlier this month.

A January agreement between DB and Berlin calls for €62 billion of extra government investment and €24 billion euros of investment from the rail company itself by 2030.

rc/rs (AFP, dpa)