Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
In my (often expressed) view, the privatisation of the German Railways is the longest-running, most crackpot and most dangerous project of neoliberals in Germany.

The idea, which was since foolishly made into the EU plan, too, is to cut up the company into separate train and infrastrucutre operating companies for sale on the stock market, which take over different operations and run in competition to other private operators. The separation was partially achieved in re-organisations of the company in preparation for such a privatisation, on-going since 1992.

And already did lots of damage.

A big complex railway is no parallel to roads and the lorry and bus companies operating on them. Infrastructure and operation, what's more, freight and local and express train operation are much more linked: be it the wear & tear effects of wheel-rail (and pantograph-catenary) interaction, issues of technical compatibility or capacity; between different trains, wear vs. ride comfort, capacity and the issue of speed differences, economic use of locos and repair shops for different services; and so on and so forth.

And that's just the issue of coherence that calls for an integrated railway. Then there are the effects of profit push and the tricky assortment of externalities in competition. One effect is mad cost-cutting, also involving the elimination of reserves that -- surprise, surprise -- leads to cascading delays and angry passengers when there is some small operational problem or demand surge. Another is the cut-back of long-term investment, which is a basic necessity for a good railway. But the privatisers would be content with the closure of remaining branchlines...

So, if the privatisation of the German Railways would be buried at last, and some future transport minister and railway top exec would at last have some ideas about how to get DB to operate better rather than merely a financial machine, I would be very happy.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Oct 11th, 2008 at 07:30:56 AM EST

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