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Cars and TransportationGermany

Germany: Deutsche Bahn to get multi-billion euro bailout

November 1, 2021

Germany's rail operated racked up over €3 billion in loses during the coronavirus pandemic. Now it's set to get a bailout, with most of the emergency funds expected to go to rail infrastructure subsidiary DB-Netz.

ICE 4 Zug der Deutsche Bahn
An "ICE 4" next-generation trainImage: Markus Mainka/picture alliance

Germany's rail operator, Deutsche Bahn, is set to receive some €2.1 billion ($2.4 billion) in bailout cash, the government confirmed on Monday. Most of the money is going to subsidiary DB-Netz, which handles rail infrastructure.

The emergency funds come after a catastrophic 18 months for Deutsche Bahn, with the coronavirus pandemic resulting in plummeting passenger numbers. DB's losses reached €2.9 billion in 2020 and €1.4 billion for the first half of this year. The company had already announced a major fare hike as of December 2021 in an attempt to bridge the gap.

Enak Ferlemann, parliamentary state secretary for transport, confirmed that an initial deal had been reached in July. Responding to a request for information from the neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP), Ferlemann said that DB-Netz had already received €537 million by mid-October.

According to Ferlemann, the EU has approved a total of €3.77 billion if necessary.

Aid not coming fast enough for unions

Deutsche Bahn has a near total monopoly on Germany's rails, particularly for long-distance passenger travel. Competitors Flixtrain and Austrian national rail service ÖBB run just a tiny fraction of journeys in the country.

The bailout is also expected to help Deutsche Bahn's competitors in the cargo and logistics branches, as their businesses also rely on the quality of rail infrastructure.

For workers and unions, the aid is not arriving fast enough. They staged a walk-out in August in protest, which cost DB some €100 million euros a day and left millions of passengers stranded.

DPA material contributed to this report.

Elizabeth Schumacher
Elizabeth Schumacher Elizabeth Schumacher reports on gender equity, immigration, poverty and education in Germany.