Every 30 to 60 minutes. That’s how often the trains should run in each direction with the Deutschlandtakt, with an initial target timetable by 2030. However, Volker Wissing’s (FDP) current Ministry of Transport is putting the brakes on these plans by ex-Federal Minister of Transport Andreas Scheuer (CSU). State Secretary Michael Theurer (FDP), who is responsible for rail transport, recently said in a ZDF interview: The Deutschlandtakt will be implemented “in the next 50 years as a project of the century”. 40 years later than announced by Scheuer in 2018 and 2021.

Criticism and, as is not unusual with the railways, malice were not long in coming. But, as is so often the case, it’s not that simple.

Theurer tried, also via Twitter, to capture the statement again. The Deutschlandtakt comes as planned in stages, it will not be postponed: “The Federal Ministry of Transport is working on accelerating the project.” Dirk Flege cannot confirm this acceleration in an interview with the star. Flege is the managing director of the “Allianz pro Schiene” interest group. He helped develop the Deutschlandtakt and is still in lively contact with the Federal Ministry of Transport. He describes Theurer’s statements as “misleading and frighteningly lacking in ambition”. In the past few weeks and months, people have “always acted as if the 2030 target timetable is the compass for the entire railway policy of Mr. Wissing and his company. And pushing this target year back 40 years is breathtaking.”

In 2021, the parties promised in the coalition agreement: “We will further develop the rail transport master plan and implement it more quickly, increase rail freight traffic to 25 percent by 2030 and double the volume of passenger traffic”. The destination timetable of a Germany cycle is geared towards these goals. An announcement that goes back to ex-transport minister Andreas Scheuer.

In 2018, Scheuer had planned the big hit with the Deutschlandtakt based on the Swiss model. To this end, he brought together politicians, companies, associations and trade unions to form the “Rail Alliance for the Future”. This drew up a nationwide timetable that was intended to make rail travel more attractive and easier for everyone. In an interview with “Welt” in the same year, Scheuer promised: “The Deutschlandtakt makes rail travel more punctual, faster and the connections more direct and reliable.”

To this end, Scheuer presented 181 infrastructure measures in 2021 to the media in order to modernize local public transport. These are part of the target timetable for 2030, which is currently the subject of debate. But to date, not a single one of these measures has made it past planning stage two of nine – there is only preliminary planning with a cost estimate. “These 181 measures are backed by a financial requirement and have been promoted to the priority needs of the transport route plan. It’s all a coherent overall concept. That’s the only way the Germany cycle works,” criticizes Dirk Flege from the “Allianz pro Schiene”.

The entire strategy of the Deutschlandtakt is logically never finished – rails or railway bridges, for example, have to be renewed from time to time. The Federal Ministry of Transport also says the star: “It is correct that the Deutschlandtakt is an ongoing project that is constantly being further developed and adapted to the modernization of the rail network.” But the fact that a concrete concept for the gradual implementation of the target timetable is still being put off angers Dirk Flege: “Neither Mr Scheuer, nor Mr Wissing, nor anyone else from the management level of the Ministry of Transport has explained why the year 2030 is only should be an intermediate stage and which year is the real target year.”

The scheduled time frame up to 2070 is also met with so much scorn and ridicule because the traffic light coalition is breaking its own climate targets. The coalition partners are not responsible for the shift in priorities caused by the war in Ukraine. However, the modernization of local transport and thus the fight against the climate crisis is being pushed further and further back. In the case of the Germany clock, 40 years. In the summer of 2022, Wissing declared the railway a “top priority”, which he emphasized again. Today, however, there is more argument about the end of combustion engines, synthetic fuels (e-fuels) and the construction and expansion of motorways (read more about these controversial issues here).

According to the Federal Ministry of Transport, it is following the coalition agreement: “The next stage in 2030 is already being prepared. Intensive consultations are taking place with the federal states and the industry.” However, none of the 181 existing measures have been successfully implemented. There would be enough immediate measures that would directly affect the construction of new and faster rails. The proposals have been submitted to the Federal Ministry of Transport. But nothing has happened here either because of “ideological quarrels,” says Dirk Flege of the “Alliance for Rail”.

Sources: Pro-Rail Alliance, Federal Ministry of Transport, ZDF, Twitter Michael Theurer