The condition of the rail network in Germany has deteriorated slightly again. Deutsche Bahn only gives its own infrastructure a mediocre grade of 3.03 for the past year, as can be seen from the current network status report from the railway infrastructure subsidiary InfraGo, which was published on Wednesday. For the previous year the value was only slightly better at 3.01. For the first time, the group also awards a grade for InfraGo’s approximately 5,400 passenger stations in the report. They also get a mediocre value of 3.09.

The railway stresses that all infrastructure facilities are “stable, operational and safe to operate”. “However, facilities that are particularly important for punctuality, such as switches, level crossings and signal boxes in the heavily used network, are only rated mediocre to poor.” This is particularly noticeable for long-distance rail passengers: one in three long-distance trains was delayed last year. The railway has been similarly unreliable so far this year. The reason for this is the many construction sites on the network, which is in need of renovation, which are slowing down traffic.

Level crossings and signal boxes are outdated

According to the network status report, the need for renewal in the network now amounts to more than 92 billion euros. The sum refers to the value of the systems with a rating of poor to inadequate that need to be replaced in the medium to short term. According to the report, it rose by almost two billion euros compared to the previous year. In addition, there will be 17.6 billion euros for train stations in need of renovation.

According to the report, the situation is particularly bad for level crossings and signal boxes. Many of them are now so outdated that only a new build is an option. The railway is now giving the signal boxes a poor score of 4.02. “This is clearly an alarm signal,” said the managing director of the Allianz pro Schiene, Dirk Flege, on Wednesday. “Too many of our signal boxes are ready for the museum. Politicians must flip the switch and quickly push ahead with the digitization of the signal boxes.” Passengers and transport companies will also benefit from this through more punctual trains.

According to the report, the railway also sees a “special need for action”. With a large-scale investment program, it wants to comprehensively modernize dozens of sections of the route, especially heavily used ones, in the coming years. This year it starts on the Riedbahn between Frankfurt and Mannheim, which will be completely closed for around five months during construction work.

When will the transport infrastructure fund come?

“The poor condition of the railway after years of austerity is obvious,” said Greenpeace transport expert Lena Donat on Wednesday. “In order to modernize neglected routes, run-down stations and outdated facilities, the railway needs long-term financing from a state fund. “The annual back and forth of what fits into the current budget must come to an end.”

Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) recently spoke out in favour of such a fund to finance transport infrastructure. However, it is still unclear how much money such a fund would be provided with and what it would include.

The grading system of the network status report works similarly to school grades. Values ​​between 1.0 and 1.99 represent new or new systems. 2.0 to 2.99 means “Good”, grades of 3 indicate mediocre condition. Investments with values ​​of 4 are considered “bad”. Replacement investments may already be overdue here. Systems with grades between 5.0 and 5.99 are given the “Poor” label. They could affect operations and should have already been replaced.