According to Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing, the core network will be completely renovated by the end of the decade with the new concept for the general renovation of important railway lines. “In 2030 we will be able to say that we have completely renovated and modernized the most heavily used routes in the German rail network,” said the FDP politician at the German Press Agency in Mainz. Deutsche Bahn board member Michael Peterson made a similar statement in “Zeit”. He had predicted an extremely improved situation throughout Germany by 2029.

The general renovation brings improvements for passengers and freight traffic much earlier than the new construction of routes, which is also being pushed ahead, said Wissing. It is also more efficient than the usual partial closures during ongoing operations. “We believe that building under the rolling wheel has failed. That’s why we’re changing that now.”

“Germany has neglected its railway infrastructure for decades,” Wissing reiterated earlier statements. The infrastructure has not grown to the same extent as demand. The railway must be brought back on track – “therefore our focus on the general renovation of the existing network and acceleration of planning for new buildings”.

The general refurbishment concept envisages a route being completely closed for a reasonable period of time in order to repair and modernize everything at once. The Riedbahn between Frankfurt and Mannheim will be the first route to be fundamentally repaired for five months from mid-2024. It is considered the busiest route in Germany. “We have a disturbance there every day,” said Wissing. The Emmerich-Oberhausen route, which is particularly important for freight traffic, and the Hamburg-Berlin route will follow in 2025.

The closure of the Riedbahn temporarily brings stress for the people who use the route, but it can be planned for five months and not for years, said Wissing. Branch lines had been upgraded for the time. In addition, more than 100 buses are used as replacement transport. “The idea is to keep the disruption to travelers and logisticians as low as possible by closing the route now to put the infrastructure in the same condition as a new route. We don’t need a complex planning process for this.” That’s why it’s going so fast.

As early as the end of 2024, long-distance trains will run more punctually if the Riedbahn, as one of the main arteries, is trouble-free. In the case of general renovations, not only the track bed, rails and overhead lines would be renewed. It will also be digitized and the track changeover operation will be made possible. This means that both directions can be driven at the same speed, which minimizes the effects of maintenance work, for example.

There is no mode of transport with 100 percent punctuality, said Wissing, but: “After the train you should actually be able to set the clock. That has to be the claim.”