Railways and airlines come up with a plan: Every fifth passenger should take the train sooner

Railways and airlines draw up a plan
Every fifth passenger should rather travel by train

Although they are extremely harmful to the climate, millions of people in Germany prefer to use domestic flights rather than train journeys. Deutsche Bahn and the aviation industry want to change this in the future with a joint action plan. However, unlike in France, there should not be a short-haul ban.

With the expansion of the rail network and better cooperation, the railways and the aviation industry want to get almost every fifth passenger on German domestic flights onto the trains. Deutsche Bahn and the Federal Association of the German Air Transport Industry (BDL) have signed a corresponding action plan in Berlin. They rejected a ban on domestic flights to reduce the greenhouse gas CO2.

With an optimal implementation, according to BDL calculations, around 4.3 million previous flight passengers could be brought onto the rails every year, announced those involved. That would be around 18 percent of the passenger volume of 23.9 million domestic passengers in 2019. A precise time frame for achieving this goal was not given, but the plan contains elements for the next ten years. In the short term, the airlines are expecting significantly lower passenger numbers and an only slow recovery in the business travel segment due to the corona pandemic.

The pre-crisis total includes around eight million transfer passengers for international flights, which, according to BDL President Peter Gerber, could not simply be referred to the train. In the case of long-haul flights in particular, the customer can always switch to foreign hubs, so that nothing is gained for the environment. The BDL expects there will be long-term demand for air transport on long domestic German connections with train travel times of more than three hours. A ban on domestic flights is the worst way, said rail board member Ronald Pofalla. Ultimately, it’s about customer decisions.

“A step in the right direction”

In addition to well-known new and expansion projects for the Deutsche Bahn, the action plan also includes a growing range of feeder trains to Frankfurt Airport. Lufthansa and Deutsche Bahn had already announced in March the expansion of their joint service “Lufthansa Express Rail”, which will be expanded by five to 22 take-off stations. From December there will also be additional sprinter trains to the largest German airport. There, the partners want to make the change easier for travelers with better routes, signage and easier baggage handling.

So far, five larger German airports (Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Berlin, Cologne-Bonn and Leipzig-Halle) have been connected to long-distance and local rail transport. Another seven can be reached by local trains. The lack of long-distance transport connections at the second largest German airport in Munich is particularly painful. Here, a commissioned feasibility study should examine variants of an additional connection. “We hope for new knowledge,” said Pofalla.

The Pro Bahn passenger association welcomed the initiative. “It is a step in the right direction to use free-market mechanisms to get more customers out of the air and onto the rails,” said honorary chairman Karl-Peter Naumann of the “Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung”. Bans like in France could only be a last resort. It is expedient to exempt domestic air traffic from all tax advantages and to impose an eco-tax on it. The left-wing member of the Bundestag Jörg Cezanne also called for a kerosene tax for domestic flights in order to increase the pace of the relocation.