The transport infrastructure in Germany is dilapidated in parts – billions of euros will be needed in the coming years to maintain and expand the rail network, roads and bridges. In view of the increasing need for investment, Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing wants a sustainable financing solution.

The FDP politician spoke on Monday in Berlin about the need for a continuous increase in investment not only for rail, but also for roads. “A country like the Federal Republic of Germany must be able to make its infrastructure investments to the extent necessary to reliably handle freight and passenger transport in the future.”

The ministry wants to have the investment ramp-up stabilized by 2025, said Wissing. “But we also see that the investment needs will increase even further from 2026 and it is my job to remind people now that we have to take precautions for this.” It is important that a sustainable solution is found. The minister said he thinks it is a good idea to mobilize private capital for this purpose.

Wissing had spoken out in favor of an “infrastructure fund” in which financial resources for rail, roads and waterways would be pooled for several years.

SPD parliamentary group deputy Detlef Müller told the German Press Agency on Monday: “The fundamental movement on the part of the FDP is welcome. We need additional funds for the modernization of our infrastructure, this particularly affects the area of ​​transport. We now have to be open and honest with each other about this to discuss possible instruments while keeping the complex budget situation in mind.”

Debate is gaining momentum

On Monday, government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit expressed “basic sympathy” for Wissing’s proposal for an infrastructure fund. If you describe the goal of being able to mobilize private capital to expand the infrastructure, this is an effort that the federal government broadly supports. The specific design and the question of whether it could be a fund must now be discussed. Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) had previously welcomed Wissing’s proposal to mobilize private capital on Sunday on ARD.

Wissing envisions mobilizing private funds that are currently invested in insurance companies or pension funds and can only be used to a very limited extent for infrastructure projects. Increased use of public-private partnerships is also conceivable.

On Monday, the minister referred to the upcoming general renovation of particularly stressed railway lines by 2030. At the same time, there is also a high need for investment in other areas, such as roads.

The coalition originally promised Deutsche Bahn an additional 45 billion euros to make the infrastructure fit in the coming years. However, a good third of them are not yet secured. The background is also the federal government’s austerity measures as a result of a ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court.

Tobias Heinemann, Deutsche Bahn’s group representative for public-interest infrastructure, said: “We need a broad initiative to stop the decline in value of the German transport infrastructure. Our future generations will benefit from a long-term, multi-year transport infrastructure fund.” A long-term transport infrastructure fund would also help to create the urgently needed capacity in the construction industry. We need to build a consensus on the need to renovate the transport infrastructure.”

Dirk Flege, Managing Director of Allianz Pro Schiene, told the dpa: “There is a huge need for renovation and expansion, especially when it comes to rail in this country. In order to make better progress than before, the federal government must ensure long-term financing security. We are therefore pleased that the debate “A fund solution for transport infrastructure is gaining momentum.”

A “Rail Acceleration Commission” set up by the government with representatives from the industry presented extensive proposals for a new financing architecture at the end of 2022. Two funds were proposed that should work over several years – and not from financial year to financial year: one for the renovation of the existing network and an expansion and modernization fund.

New advisory board

A new, so-called sector advisory board began its work on Monday. The background is the newly formed, “community-oriented” infrastructure division InfraGO of the federally owned Deutsche Bahn. Wissing said that the word infrastructure oriented towards the common good should be filled with content. “We need better punctuality, we need more reliability in our network and we also need more competitors on the rails.”

Bärbel Fuchs, managing director of the Bavarian Railway Company and chairwoman of the sector advisory board, said: “For me it is very important that we are taken seriously at this point.” The sector advisory board expects the federal government to ensure that the agreed goals and measures are backed by sufficient financing.

Heinemann said that the committee ensures close involvement of the industry in the design of the public-interest infrastructure and continuous dialogue with the sector.