Politics • 10.07.2021 • Reading time ~ 11 min.
You try to get rid of an albatross around the neck. Depending on available options and pursued intentions, means are adjusted. It becomes difficult when everything takes place in public and the effects sting noticeably into the flesh of those affected. As long as twisted arguments have an appeasing effect, projects can be pursued unabashedly. It becomes unfavorable from the moment an invincible opponent enters the ring. Then things not only get tricky, but you end up on the siding that was intended for other purposes.
When Deutsche Bahn was transformed into a private-law organization (stock corporation) in 1994, the decline began. Since then, those responsible have been working on the dismantling. Packaged in hypocritical terms such as efficiency or competitiveness, it's all about reducing the cost apparatus. And this is huge. Most would have liked to get rid of the railway entirely, either abolished it or sold it completely. The former was apparently inconceivable even for politicians, and the latter may have been deterred by an excessive set of contracts. As a result they are trying to square the circle in this country: offering full service while dismantling the tool at the same time.
Everywhere, the economy is showing the way. With enough pressure, profits can be squeezed out anywhere. What effects this triggers is of no interest. The main thing is that those who are lining their pockets get a tidy profit. Side effects are passed on to other shoulders. If the endeavor receives highest political support, because pure failure emanates from ministerial government chair, hops and malt are lost anyway.
If a relative spends his working life at Deutsche Bahn, you hear anecdotes which were amusing at that time and most likely triggered incredulous head-shaking. In today's light, however, they cause hair-raising bewilderment. If you consider how long these untenable conditions have been going on and extrapolate everything to the company as a whole, the explosive situation of the company is no longer surprising.
It all began with the division of the railroad into four business units in 1994. The decline really took off in 1999, when the company was converted into a holding company and split into five subsidiaries:
- DB Fernverkehr AG (long-distance passenger transport)
- DB Regio AG (local passenger transport)
- DB Cargo AG (freight transport)
- DB Netz AG (line equipment (tracks, signals, overhead lines, etc.))
- DB Station & Service AG (train stations)
The ground was prepared for all kinds of outrages.
In earlier times, not everything was necessarily better, but some things were. Before restructuring, for example, a locomotive pulled a full freight train from Hamburg to Flensburg. If empty passenger wagons were waiting there to be transferred to Hamburg, the now free locomotive coupled them up and drove back to Hamburg. Since reorganization, the locomotive returns to Hamburg empty or, at best, waits to see if something can be found to attach during driver's shift. While an empty locomotive drives from Hamburg to Flensburg to pick up the passenger cars to be transferred.
To cut a long story short: Before, the entire process was trimmed for efficiency and cooperation, which was abruptly over. What not only sounds absurd, but seems to contradict all neoliberal efforts, of course, had an infamous background: the now individual departments were suddenly brimming with inefficiency and could be disassembled piece by piece.
It's most clearly visible in the route network. Thousands of kilometers were shut down. Everything was even dismantled in profitable places. Mostly because the land could be sold lucratively. This also created final facts. A – desired – side effect was that more and more goods were shifted to the road.
Truck traffic increased dramatically. So much so that the electrification of highways is now being considered and is already being tested in initial field trials. Isn't that sheer lunacy? To amputate the ecologically and economically most sensible means of transport in order to destroy roads and climate with dirty vehicles, only to invest energy in making them less polluting. So much nonsense is likely to make even die-hard fools pale.
If the problem in goods transport still eludes most, they get to feel full force of madness in passenger traffic. Even with their lives, some had to pay for the new austerity measures of narcissistic small-minds. In the Berlin DB Tower, bigoted roosters puff out their chests to cover up their failures with pithy words. If fear for your own life constantly driving with you along austerity mania, regular delays lose their horror. You may be annoyed that even generous plans fall through, but in the end your are happy to arrive healthy at all. Everyday shortcomings, such as failed air conditioning systems or non-functioning toilets, customers accept as part of the package and endured stoically.
In addition to pure train operations, other construction sites catch the eye in the truest sense of the word. The absolute front-runner is the Stuttgart underground station (S21). Not only does it, like all major federal construction projects, exceed all planning targets, it will not be able to fullfill promised services at all. The fact that the top management has once again put its foot in its mouth doesn't bother them in any way. Bragging big and then failing miserably only leads to a loss of face in Asian habitats. Here, corrupt behavior is part of the business. Because the rail board is less concerned with the station itself than with getting it out of the way. Much more important is the surface area, which can now be gilded. The losses produced by the construction do not need to be offset because the taxpayer pays for them – as usual. Incidentally, S21 exposed a Green politician as a liar because he was against the building and turned 180 degrees after his election. Surprisingly, this doesn't bother the citizens there. There has long been no talk of thrifty Swabians.
Because bullshit is becoming more and more popular in this country, nonsense in Stuttgart mutates into a series. To compensate shortcomings of S21, the next underground station is being planned in the surrounding area. This will have further catastrophic side effects in its luggage, but the decision-makers are not interested in them. Hamburg is next. The terminus station in the Altona district occupies a much too attractive area and therefore has to go. For this, it should not only be laid underground, but also far away from its current location. Frankfurt is the latest target. Nobody likes to admit mistakes, but to repeat them and make things worse is irresponsible. Calling this limited would also apply, but shall only be mentioned as an alternative synonym.
Great Britain, where the railway was dangerously run down after privatization, could have served as a cautionary tale for the management. Instead, it seemed to be more orientated towards it. Some developing countries may have left us behind in rail transport. Unfortunately, snooty leaders ignore their failure and instead get more and more entangled. Only climate change is now forcing them to face their mess. Which aversions this arouses can be seen from the half-hearted approach. As if to dispose of a dead rat, reluctantly holding its tail between thumb and forefinger and stretching it out as far as possible.
Grudgingly, some disused lines are to be revived. Meanwhile, Europe's second-largest highway network is enjoying plenty of growth. Ambitions to shift more freight back onto the railways exist at best as a declaration of intent. This slowly reveals the gist of the matter. Above all there is an authority that is brimming with unimaginable incompetence. Their occupations confirm a saying in a deleterious way: Worse is always possible. Characterized by pompous talk, the incompetence of the last Ministers of Transport is tearing gaping wounds in our country.
If the government bench of the past legislative period already shows a picture of horror, Minister of Transport Andreas Scheuer delivers a performance that would have left you in first class every year. The damage he has caused is immense. Anyone expecting shame or remorse will be disappointed. Anyone who at least hopes for insight will be disappointed. Anyone who expects a correction will be disappointed. Even those who know earlier times, when politicians resigned because of – from today's perspective – marginal misconduct of their own accord, rub their eyes in amazement. To afford such an incompetent politician casts a dark shadow over the entire country. Do we really have nothing better to offer than to entrust so much power to losers? Should we even consider ourselves lucky that it's only Ministry of Transportation and not presidency like in the U.S.? But after the federal elections in September 2021 with Armin Laschet we are threatened with new adversity.
However, our past ministers of transport alone fill a thick horror novel, which is why further remarks are omitted here.
All things considered achieved results counts. Due to the political refusal to work, Germany can only show negative results. Disastrous in the wake of human-made global threat from climate change. Measured against our demands, we should be embarrassed by our poor performance. But as elsewhere, people's disinterest in the context is rampant. Unless their own gluttony is threatened, then the knives are sharpened.
If only a lot went wrong, cheers would almost be in order. But if everything gets out of hand, it tightens your neck. One could come to the conclusion that it is precisely because a good rail infrastructure would be sensible from all points of view that it is being massively fought against and put down. It's true that a profitable railway would relieve Federal Treasury. In return, economy would have to accept cutbacks. Unrestrained stuffing their pockets until they burst would then be noticeably slowed down. Because that would be far too social and our politicians are nothing more than company's stooges, they obediently ensure that the money flows according to their specifications.
It would be nice if cities like Hamburg and Kiel regretted the abolition of their trams and thought about a reanimation. However, to blame all – possible – measures on the climate alone would be much too one-sided. In parts of the population, which limit themselves intellectually and regrettably receive a large influx, this kind of resistance is immediately triggered. Because they don't know what they're doing describes it aptly, but doesn't advance us one iota.
The future, no matter how long it may be for each individual, needs perspective. At present, we are destroying it – all of us. That can neither be an aim nor an incentive for anyone. Destruction creates nothing. It's so simple and should be understood even by underexposed individuals. Whereby the problem there lies more in comprehension. It would be elementarily important now that politics finally lives up to its responsibility and changes the direction with noticeable effects, in order to bring us away from the fatal wrong course.
Doesn't happen enough quickly, beside railway the country will end up on the siding.
Translated with the help of Deepl and Google. If passages are unfortunate translated or sentences are incorrectly worded so that they may even make a different sense, I am pleased to receive suitable hints. Thanks.