Deutsche Bahn and the German Aviation Association encourage shift from air to rail

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Germany’s national rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) and the German Aviation Association (BDL) have revealed that they are making good progress on their joint action plan to shift more domestic short haul traffic from air to rail.

The joint action plan, which was signed back in April 2021, aims to increase the attractiveness and sustainability of rail travel, compared to air travel, to contribute toward reducing transport-related greenhouse gas emissions in the country. DB and BDL are working together to better connect the different modes of travel to encourage modal shift.

“Although air traffic is increasing again after the pandemic-related slump, there is a trend toward the further shifting of domestic short-haul traffic to rail,” DB noted. “Deutsche Bahn's Sprinter services, for example, are being used by more travelers than ever before. Last year, these fast connections between the metropolises recorded an increase in demand of 45% compared to 2019.”

In addition to the expansion of the Sprinter range, DB’s expanded feeder services and improved cooperation agreements, such as Lufthansa Express Rail, have made a significant contribution to the success of the action plan. As early as October 2021, the demand for this joint feeder service from DB and Lufthansa to Frankfurt Airport was at the level of the pre-crisis year 2019. Last year, demand increased again by 25%.

Through the Lufthansa Express Rail service, Lufthansa passengers can book their entire journey, including the journey to and from Frankfurt Airport on the DB ICE, in one ticket via Deutsche Lufthansa. The offer now includes almost all 24 domestic German destinations of Deutsche Lufthansa.

Michael Peterson, board member for long-distance passenger transport at DB said, “Where aviation and rail cooperate, we record double-digit growth rates. Our expanded feeder services to the largest German airport, Frankfurt Airport, are part of this success. If we succeed in intelligently networking the modes of transport, we will win more people over to climate-friendly mobility chains.”

Jost Lammers, president of BDL added, “I am very pleased that together we have been able to advance further projects for better networking of rail and air transport. In this way we improve the mobility offer for travelers, contribute to climate protection in the transport sector and ensure the competitiveness of the German aviation industry. To make further progress, however, we also need federal support for accelerated infrastructure expansion.”

The renewal and expansion of rail infrastructure is a prerequisite for even greater networking of air and rail transport, according to DB and BDL. In December last year, for example, the Wendlingen-Ulm high-speed line, which is around 60km long, went into operation. It shortens travel times between Stuttgart and Munich. It is also the basis for connecting Stuttgart Airport to long-distance rail passenger transport after the completion of the Stuttgart 21 rail project.

Furthermore, DB and BDL agree that the connection of Munich Airport to the ICE network should be tackled as “a matter of urgency”. Travelers to and from Munich Airport will benefit from the second main line of the Munich S-Bahn in the next few years. In the future, together with the Erdinger Ringschluss, it is intended to improve the connection between Munich Airport and rail transport. 

With the start of construction of the approximately four-and-a-half-kilometer route from the airport to Schwaigerloh in November 2022, the Erdinger ring closure is making further progress. DB is aiming for the section to be operational by the end of 2025.