German DBAG fights for control over tracks
The Deutsche Bahn AG is not pleased to relinquish control of tracks to a neutral
third party. Policymakers must balance the priority of competition with clear rules and
In recent years, the German national railway has been transformed from an arm of
government to a limited company with a clear mandate -- to make money from rail
operations. Governments may put unprofitable operations out to tender. This has been
done several times and DBAG has lost some business to new companies.
As in the rest of Europe, the drive to make the railway competitive through
commercialization is not stopping there. DBAG's privileged track access will be stripped to
a skeleton in order to let other companies onto the network, and this requires a neutral
third party to parcel out slots and to moderate the inevitable questions of priority (arising
from breaches of the timetable).
DBAG thinks they should own this neutral, third party. So does the transport minister.
But economists in the Ministry of Transport disagree.
This tangle of logic and wills is not as tangled as it may seem at first glance, because
DBAG will remain huge and its competitors will remain small. It may be more efficient to let
DBAG control track access directly, and sell access to other companies, than to have a
third party between the tracks and the train operators. This third party would not have
any real incentive to solve problems -- DBAG would, either to save its own trains or those
of its customers, which use its track.
Further reading at Cargoweb and