Sustainable and efficient transport is now more important than ever. Germany plans to eliminate transport emissions by 2050, but this won’t be possible unless the railway plays a larger role in transport than ever before.
The agreed emissions targets present major challenges for politicians and business-owners alike. Commerce and freight transport will only continue to grow, with the German government forecasting growth by around 40% until 2030 compared to 2010.
Masterplan for our targets
Given these figures, Germany can no longer avoid investing in a strong rail freight transport network if it wants to meet its agreed climate targets. This has been the case for years, which is why the German government’s coalition agreement provides support for the railways. Developed in 2017, the master plan for rail freight transport was also created with the intention of supporting the railways and offsetting the competitive disadvantages of rail transport. Since 2021, the federal government has introduced a CO2 tax for the transport sector. Seen from a macroeconomic perspective, this is the most cost-effective way to achieve climate targets while also supporting investment in more environmentally friendly rail freight transport.
At the same time, the rail system still suffers from many disadvantages when compared with transport on the road. The market for freight transport is fraught with difficulty and volatility. Shifts in the world of commerce have negatively impacted the rails. A unified European rail system is still under construction. The German government and Deutsche Bahn therefore plan to invest EUR 86 billion to renovate the rail network by 2030. These investments could increase the network’s capacity, which could significantly benefit rail freight transport. By investing in combined transport and single-wagon transport as an alternative to lorries, the German government also aims to shift more transports to the rails.
CO2 winner facing challenges
Despite these obstacles, the railway offers a strong model. The Europe-wide network with thousands of access points and with national companies and partner railways already ensures that almost 60 per cent of the transport services for our customers are provided on a pan-European basis. The most important point of all may be sustainability – DB Cargo offers clear-cut CO2-related benefits: Compared with a lorry, a train emits a mere fifth of the CO2 measured per tonne of freight per kilometre travelled.
Nevertheless, DB Cargo has not benefited enough from the economic growth experienced in Germany over the past few years. Help is now on its way from the very top. “Germany will only achieve its climate targets if there is a massive shift of transport to the rails”, says Dr Richard Lutz, Chairman of the DB Management Board and CEO. “Germany needs Strong Rail for the climate, the people, the economy and, last but not least, for Europe. We are committed to honouring our responsibility to society and, in all of our efforts, we will focus on making Strong Rail a reality.”