Figures are merciless: the ICE Sprinter from Munich to Berlin was supposed to take less than four hours. The project had started 25 years earlier; 29 viaducts, 22 tunnels and 160 special points had to be constructed for it; the total cost ran to ten billion euros. And then the train’s maiden voyage was delayed by two hours.
Ten times further by car than by train
A doubly painful experience for Deutsche Bahn as it could have done with the boost to its image. According to a survey conducted by the Federal Ministry of Transport, Germans travel ten times more kilometres by car than by train: 965.5 to 95 million kilometres. Air travel lags behind with 63.9 million kilometres.
The current developments of automation, connectivity and the sharing economy are tending to play more into the hands of road traffic. Automation is making car-driving more comfortable. Car traffic might increase by 30 percent by 2030 as a result, estimates Tobias Kuhnimhof from the Institute of Transport Research, part of the German Aerospace Centre. In goods transport, too, the platooning of trucks on the motorway, for example, offers significant advantages over the train.
Test with self-driving trains
But Deutsche Bahn is responding. It is testing driverless trains on a 25-kilometre test route near Chemnitz. And in Hamburg, it intends to launch a pilot project with a type of taxi-sharing service that takes passengers from their doorstep to the station and back. The taxi is to work with a smartphone app following the ride-sharing principle.
Can Deutsche Bahn win the race between the different means of transport as a TV ad by the company featuring Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg suggests? Not everyone is convinced. Lufthansa is operating 20 extra aircraft between German towns in the winter of 2017/18.