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Switching to the public good?

Launch of InfraGO with big goals and criticism

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On January 22, DB InfraGO AG, which was founded at the turn of the year, presented itself for the first time with a ceremony and introduced its goals and areas of activity. The response was mixed.

Transport Minister Wissing and Deutsche Bahn CEO Lutz press a start button in front of a screen with the words "DB InfraGO" on it

Start of DB InfraGO AG in Berlin © Deutsche Bahn AG / Hans-Christian Plambeck

Start for more

At the turn of the year, the rail network and station divisions within the DB Group were merged into a new company called "InfraGO". A name that sounds good but is not an abbreviation, but in which the letters "GO" are intended to stand for a focus on the common good. The merger of DB Netz and DB Station&Service with a stronger focus on the common good, which had been in preparation for two years, was one of the aims of the traffic light government. The merged DB InfraGO AG is to be managed via an annual "Infraplan", which is to contain a concrete work program for the coming years. It should also specify key figures and targets that are reviewed, adjusted and updated annually to create a rolling system. In addition, the sector advisory board, the merger of the existing advisory boards for the network and the stations, is to be established with an office at the Federal Ministry of Transport and support the public welfare-oriented work of the new company.

Dirk Flege, Managing Director of the Pro-Rail Alliance, believes that the Infraplan is a good idea, but complains that the tension between public welfare and economic efficiency objectives has not been resolved in InfraGO either. The watch blog DB-Watch , which is run by the rail freight interest group, also believes that the focus on the common good is not sufficiently anchored in the InfraGO statutes. The role of the federal government is still not strong enough. Furthermore, it is still possible that any profits from the infrastructure division could flow into other areas. This position of the new company within the DB Group is also criticized by the Bürgerbahn initiative. Furthermore, the structure of InfraGO is too small: important parts such as energy, IT and maintenance will remain as separate units within the DB Group. "In the medium term, Deutsche Bahn must be completely restructured as a non-profit public corporation if the transport turnaround is to succeed," says spokesperson Heiner Monheim.

The initiative adds that the additional increases in track access charges announced for 2024 show that InfraGO is not meeting expectations.

At an event in November 2023, State Secretary Susanne Henckel and FDP politician Valentin Abel emphasized, according to a report in Verkehrsrundschau that the launch of InfraGO was just the beginning of a rail structure reform. From 2025, new performance and financing agreements will also apply, which will include other key figures.

Railroad construction until 2030

The refurbishment and modernization programme for the rail network and stations was also presented at the event in Berlin under the motto "A new start for strong rail". The focus was on line renovations, capacity expansions and the digitalization of control technology. InfraGO intends to focus in particular on the "high-performance network", around 9,200 kilometers of particularly busy main lines. For 4,000 kilometers of these, InfraGO has announced general refurbishments by 2030, in which entire routes are to be closed and modernized more efficiently. InfraGO has already begun work on the Riedbahn between Frankfurt/Main and Mannheim. The first "stations of the future" with attractive, uniform and functional facilities, which InfraGO envisages for the entire network in the future, are also to be built on this route. Major route modernizations and other capacity-creating measures such as overtaking facilities or new train formation systems are also planned at some points outside the core network.

The rail freight companies already criticized the plans for the general refurbishment last year. On the one hand, it would not be enough to modernize the network in some places, on the other hand, they feared that DB would be overburdened with the coordination of the construction work and the capacity restrictions during the construction period. Over the course of the year, cost increases of EUR 500 million to EUR 1,300 million were announced for the renovation of the Riedbahn. A preparatory closure of the line in January 2024 meant that the schedule could not be adhered to. The actual general refurbishment is due to start in mid-July.


Jan Klein