Economy

Bahn boss Lutz: The number of passengers will increase significantly

More customers, more income: After two years of crisis, the state-owned company wants to gradually move towards normality. The Bahn boss explains how this should succeed despite Omikron.

The group expects significantly more people to board the long-distance trains of Deutsche Bahn this year than in the past two Corona years.

“For this year, we expect to significantly exceed the 100 million passenger mark in long-distance transport,” said CEO Richard Lutz of the German Press Agency. Last year there were 81.3 million, around 400,000 more than in 2020.

“People want to travel by train,” said Lutz. He does not expect major timetable restrictions in the Omicron wave. After significant losses in ongoing business, things should also go better financially for the federal group this year.

Avoid failures

In view of the increasing number of sick leave, Deutsche Bahn has been using shorter trains in some cases since January 10th. As a precaution, this should relieve the maintenance works. “In the last few days we have minimally reduced our offer and partially thinned out the train crew a bit,” said Lutz. At the moment, however, operations are running quietly and largely smoothly.

“However, if the number of infections continues to rise so rapidly, we will of course look at it again,” added Lutz. “One thing is clear: we want to drive as much as possible. In any case, things are looking pretty good at the moment and I don’t expect drastic restrictions on our timetable, as we already had to experience at the beginning of the pandemic. »

In order to avoid major failures, the railways have taken precautions for particularly sensitive professional groups, explained Lutz. “In signal boxes, for example, we run two shifts instead of three, which means that one shift remains free and can step in if necessary.” Lutz emphasized that train travel is safe. Nothing indicates an increased risk of infection.

Optimism despite Corona

The Corona crisis had almost halved the number of passengers in the ICE and Intercity trains – in 2019 there were still around 151 million passengers. The heavily indebted railway has slipped deep into the red and is being supported with billions of government funds. In 2021, according to information from supervisory board circles, the loss should have been almost 1.9 billion euros before interest and taxes (EBIT).

Lutz is more optimistic about the new year. “We are assuming that we will be just above zero in the 2022 financial year, i.e. that we will be able to generate a positive operating result (EBIT) again after two deep red years.” He left it open how the bottom line for the year could turn out.

Most recently, the Supervisory Board spoke of an EBIT plus of around 100 million euros in 2022. According to the medium-term planning of the group, the current business should then yield clearer profits again from next year.

In the Christmas business, passenger numbers were only around ten percent below the pre-crisis level, said Lutz. Even in January, which is usually rather weak, there have been stable numbers so far. Local transport reaches around 50 to 60 percent of the pre-Corona time.

“I am therefore more convinced than ever that the trend towards climate-friendly mobility and logistics will continue after the end of the pandemic,” said Lutz. The group is investing, modernizing, recruiting and qualifying at a record level – even if it is at the expense of the result. «The climate doesn’t wait, and neither do our customers. We don’t squint at quarterly results in the short term.”

Sale of Arriva

The railway wants to make a new attempt to sell the international subsidiary Arriva, as Lutz announced. Arriva operates buses and trains in 14 European countries, primarily in the UK. For some years now, however, Deutsche Bahn has been paying more attention to its home market. In 2019, Deutsche Bahn stopped the sale in the run-up to Brexit and because the expected proceeds were too low. In the following year, depreciation at the subsidiary burdened the consolidated result.

“At its core, Arriva is a healthy company in an attractive market,” said Lutz. It is therefore right to place the subsidiary in new hands who can support and finance the growth potential more. “In 2023 or 2024 we want to get back into sales activities at Arriva.”

Lutz expressed reservations about recurring political demands to also sell the international logistics subsidiary Schenker. The logistics subsidiary has two fantastic years behind it and is financially stabilizing the group with record sales and record profits. “We’ll see what the future brings. In any case, I am currently very happy that we have Schenker.”

Source From: Stern

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