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Transportation

Germany’s Beleaguered Rail Network Is Overdue for an Overhaul

Years of underinvestment have left trains congested and frequently delayed, says the country’s transport minister. The fix? A $14 billion rail overhaul.

Passengers disembark a Deutsche Bahn AG passenger train on a platform at Berlin Central Station in June.

Passengers disembark a Deutsche Bahn AG passenger train on a platform at Berlin Central Station in June.

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Years of deferred maintenance — along with stress from surging ridership and climate-change-fueled track damage — have taken a toll on Germany’s rail network, which has been “pushed to its limit” and “cannot stay the way it is.” So said Germany’s Transport Minister Volker Wissing at a press conference in Berlin Wednesday, where he outlined plans for what will be the most comprehensive overhaul of Germany’s trains since the aftermath of World War II.

The initiative aims to modernize or replace 1,800 kilometers (1,119 miles) of track, 2,000 switches, 140 bridges and 800 stations at a cost of 13.6 billion euros ($14.3 billion) between 2023 and 2030. It’s needed, Wissing said, because years of underinvestment in the system have left trains congested and frequently delayed, undercutting Germany’s enduring reputation for strong public services and efficiency. The renovation program should restore the system’s reliability, Wissing said, commenting that he “looked forward to a future where we can set our watches by the train again.”