Deutsche Bahn suffered setbacks as a quarter of all long-distance trains in Germany failed to arrive on time in March, according to a media report. A new task force is to be set up to work on improving performance.
German trains aren't what they used to be. Once a shining example of German efficiency, accuracy and, above all, punctuality, today there are accusations voiced that Germany's long-distance railway company Deutsche Bahn (DB) is a shadow of its former self.
A report published in the weekly Der Spiegel news magazine says that a quarter of all long-distance trains suffered delays last month. The official definition of late is six minutes or more behind schedule. DB said that the main reasons for the delays were "large-scale disruptions on mainlines" and "wintry weather conditions in the north and the east" of the country.
Deutsche Bahn has suffered a series of setbacks for several years, often resulting in long delays for passengers. For 2018, the aim is to reach a punctuality rate of 82 percent, which the latest numbers from March miss by 6.7 percent. In 2017, Germany's biggest railway company managed to run 78.5 percent of trains arriving on time.
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Repairs and renovation
Looking for the main reason for Deutsche Bahn's underperformance, experts point to a state of decay across its 33,000-kilometer (20,500-mile) network. With aging tracks, platforms and bridges resulting in 850 construction sites around the country in 2016, DB has a long list of infrastructure and repair projects.
Karl-Peter Naumann, spokesman for the passenger rights association "Pro Bahn" told DW that Deutsche Bahn was neglecting its duties as a service provider:
"There are too many construction sites, too few trains and a great number of other defects and deficits throughout the network and its infrastructure. DB has to plan its repairs better and thus anticipate any delays to its timetable, so customers know what to expect from the start."
While many industry analysts have insisted there must be more investment, the railway company is trying to patch up the network with short-term solutions, having weathered considerable financial challenges only two years ago.
Achieving punctual departures and arrivals is not just in passengers' interests: The bonuses of DB executives depend on it, as the company structure takes punctuality into consideration when determining the extent of bonuses paid out.
DB Chairman Richard Lutz has announced the establishment of a punctuality assessment center in a bid to improve future performance.