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More than 200 closed, mothballed or freight-only lines could be reopened to serve 291 towns and a population of around 3 million people, according to proposals drawn up by the Association of German Transport Companies VDV and rail lobby group Allianz pro Schiene.
The two organisations have updated a list of routes proposed for reopening, which was originally drawn up in May 2019. Adding 55 projects with a combined length of 963 km brings the list to 238 lines with a total length of 4 016 km, about half of which they believe could be electrified.
Speaking at a conference on the ‘comeback of rail’ on July 9, Chairman of the VDV Committee for Railway Infrastructure Jörgen Bosse explained that ‘if rail is to be the transport mode of the 21st century then we must look at the whole country and not just at major cities and conurbations or long-distance travel. In Germany around 70% of people live in small or middle-sized towns or in the countryside. For this big majority of the population we need efficient and environmentally-friendly rail services. It’s about protection of the climate and also about equivalence of living conditions.’
Allianz pro Schiene Managing Director Dirk Flege suggested that by taking the opportunity to reactivate closed lines ‘we can halt the decades-long withdrawal of rail from rural areas and turn it round. That’s a recipe for success to achieve a better transport mix in the future’.
The associations reported that 933 km of route had been reopened for passenger traffic between 1994 and 2020, with 364 km reopened for freight. However, over the same period passenger services had been withdrawn from lines totalling 3 600 km, with freight lines also showing a negative balance. The national network had thus shrunk from 44 600 km to 38 500 km.
VDV and Allianz pro Schiene noted that reopening five lines in the most densely populated areas currently without rail service would provide access to trains for 300 000 people.
The two organisations point to changes in the Gemeindeverkehrsfinanzierungsgesetz (Municipal Transport Financing Law) that have improved the options for potential reopenings, stimulating activity at local and Land level to develop viable proposals. ‘We think that this will accelerate the reactivation of closed lines in the coming years’, Bosse predicted.
This article first appeared on www.railwaygazette.com
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