Deutsche Bahn

2021 Competition Symposium

Higher capacity, digitalisation, green transport, fair competition – this year's virtual Symposium on Competition & Regulation in the Rail Sector focussed on the steps that will be necessary to build a strong, climate-friendly rail system in Germany and Europe.

Despite a drop in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, and despite the losses railways currently face, DB CEO Dr Richard Lutz said he was confident that passenger numbers and freight volumes had real potential to grow over the medium term. In fostering their growth, rail could play a key role in decarbonising the mobility sector – with digitalisation, flexibilisation and changes in air traffic bolstering this role. Parliamentary State Secretary Enak Ferlemann described the record investments being made to upgrade rail service and the work being done to develop an integrated Germany-wide rail timetable as the cornerstones that would usher in what he termed a decade of rail.

Adina Vălean, European Commissioner for Transport, spoke in a video message about the great resilience that the rail sector had demonstrated throughout the pandemic. Rail freight transport had kept cross-border supply chains running. Vălean said that the European Year of Rail would offer opportunities to discuss what still needed to be done to shift more traffic to rail. And a shift would be critical to achieving the targets of the Green Deal. Andreas Matthä, Chair of the Community of European Railways and Infrastructure Companies, stated that the shift back to road haulage during the pandemic had been the wrong approach in an age of climate change. Matthä argued that it was high time to internalise the third-party costs of all modes of transport and establish a fair and transparent carbon pricing system in the transport sector.

In a panel discussion, State Secretary Dr Tamara Zieschang, MEP Anna Deparnay-Grunenberg, DB Infrastructure Board Member Ronald Pofalla, German Federal Network Agency Vice President Dr Wilhelm Eschweiler and Association of German Transport Companies President Ingo Wortmann addressed the key challenges that would need to be overcome to return to a path of growth following the pandemic and raise the market share of rail considerably by 2030. The consensus was that rail was in a good position to meet the targets for shifting traffic by the end of the decade – but that the players involved would need to look beyond the empty coffers they were currently facing and find ways to invest in higher capacity, more employees and digitalisation.

Recording of the event