Deutsche Bahn is once again under criticism. Companies suffer from the countless construction sites. This exacerbates the well-known supply chain problems even more. Now the companies are demanding a remedy. Transport Minister Volker Wissing should also act.

Germany’s economy is in a real mess. The Ukraine war and lockdowns in China make her work difficult. And the list of problems is even longer: Deutsche Bahn’s freight traffic is stuck in permanent traffic jams. Last Friday, DB Cargo – the rail freight subsidiary – had 309 trains “involuntarily” standing around, as reported by the “Handelsblatt”.

The reason is the extremely high number of construction sites. There are long disruptions on a number of important routes.

According to Bahn, there has recently been major work, for example between

Only recently did DG Cargo let its major customers know: “It won’t get any better this year.” At least that’s what the report in the “Handelsblatt” says. A major customer – including Volkswagen, Bayer, BASF – spoke drastically of a “grid collapse”.

The train runs in the red area. All commuters who regularly wait for their trains know this. Not uncommon, because in April only around two-thirds of long-distance trains arrived on time. This is due to network congestion. And sometimes from signal box malfunctions. If they don’t occur, passengers always have to live with defective toilets or failed air conditioning systems.

DB Cargo’s special problem: passenger trains have the right of way. In order to keep up at all, the rail freight subsidiary recently had to throttle its transport volumes. The major customers were informed about this. The reason is obvious: “It’s about discussing with the companies which goods have to be transported when in order to relieve the network,” said a railway spokesman according to the report.

So that the future looks rosier, the railway is currently building as much as it can. Deutsche Bahn is investing 13.6 billion euros in expansion and repairs this year alone. With serious consequences: The current traffic is slowed down by the countless construction sites.

For industry experts, the problems mentioned are not new. In the 1990s, the former Bundesbahn was privatized. The group leaders even aimed at an IPO. In order to make itself look pretty, the network was optimized in terms of costs. Or saved to pieces, as critics – for example in the unions – say. Experts have to clarify whether rightly or out of polemics.

The railway builds and renews, the major customers are waiting for raw materials and products. Because the construction site control obviously overwhelms the capacities of the railway. This is the only way to explain why Deutsche Bahn is putting off an investment backlog of an unbelievable 60 billion euros.

The current massive problems are causing frustration even among high-level rail managers, as a video published by “Wirtschaftswoche” shows. In it, the DB Cargo production board member speaks relentlessly about the massive problems in the rail network. (You can watch the video here.) “We are in a situation that is almost indescribable,” explains Ralf Kloß to his employees. The company is currently so badly affected by construction work and disruptions that “we can hardly control it anymore,” explains the board. He has never experienced such a situation in 40 years at DB Cargo.

Even if Deutsche Bahn’s major customers have swallowed the latest transport restrictions, some are furious. Several business bosses want to persuade the responsible Federal Minister of Transport, Volker Wissing (FDP), to equalize the timing of the construction sites and to enable regulated freight traffic again.

If that doesn’t work out soon, the railways are threatened with further adversity. Otherwise, BASF wants to organize transport itself – without DB Cargo. Instead with trucks or other railway companies. But Deutsche Bahn and Minister Wissing can still react. But time is running out.