Swabia: Go-Ahead has difficulties starting the new routes – Bavaria

The good news for rail travelers in and around Augsburg: Compared to the well-known red trains, the new blue and white vehicles could bring a few improvements. There will be more generous seat spacing, for example, and more space for prams and luggage – not entirely impractical, especially on the heavily frequented connections to Munich. The bad news: Such advantages will initially only be available with restrictions. The British railway company Go-Ahead, which is taking over large parts of local transport in Swabia with the timetable change, has reported a serious shortage of staff. The services must therefore be reduced at the start on some routes.

From this point of view, the change from the red trains of DB Regio to the blue and white of Go-Ahead could go better. As of Sunday, the company is expected to travel 7.6 million train kilometers a year: primarily in northern Swabia to Ulm, Dinkelscherben and Donauwörth, but also to Treuchtlingen, Würzburg and Aalen. But the short-notice announcement about the lack of additional trains and poorer connections in some places has upset passenger associations and the Bavarian Railway Company (BEG). The latter orders regional transport on behalf of the Free State and has already announced contractual penalties. It won’t be of much use to Go-Ahead to run hourly trains on the Riesbahn between Aalen and Donauwörth. This is made possible by cooperation with other railway companies, including the recently replaced DB Regio.

But it could have started worse. And starting difficulties are almost normal. “Changing operators often leads to problems,” says Jörg Lange from the Pro Bahn passenger association. A lack of staff, new trains, timetables calculated in theory that don’t work in practice – all of these are common pitfalls. Lange would therefore support it if new operators were allowed to start in the summer and not just before Christmas, when problems in rail traffic are already to be expected due to the weather. He resents Go-Ahead for the fact that the offer restriction was only communicated too late. Otherwise there is no reason to be critical of the change of operator from the outset. “Without tenders in regional rail transport, there would not have been the expansion of services over the past 20 years,” says Lange.

In fact, operator changes are annoying for travelers and yet important for the rail system. After all, the competition between the railway companies for the individual networks should make rail travel better in the long term. But that didn’t always work out in the end. Industry representatives report that the pressure on companies has increased. In simplified terms, the market is more open than it used to be, which is why newcomers like Go-Ahead have more opportunities. In addition, the requirements have grown and the operating costs. If a network is regularly re-tendered, the railway companies that are already running on the routes often have an advantage: They already have the trains, the specialists and the experience to calculate the costs as precisely as possible. From the point of view of experts, this tends to make changes in operator less common – and means a certain imbalance for the competition.

If you want, you can see a bit of movement in the too deadlocked tracks in the network takeover by Go-Ahead. Of course, the company still has to deliver, despite the lack of train drivers. They have been missing for years, to the chagrin of the entire industry, career changers are in great demand. Go-Ahead was hardly able to poach staff from Deutsche Bahn or hire temporary workers. A good 40 positions ultimately remained open.

So far, only a few complaints have been heard about the British

These are to be filled by the summer from the in-house engine driver school, in which, according to company spokesman Winfried Karg, 220 people are currently learning. Until then, the failures should be limited: only three percent of the contract volume could not be served as planned for the time being, says Karg. The restrictions are “of course not nice for passengers, no question”. But also in order to avoid short-term train cancellations, the decision was made to do without less frequented connections. “That’s the lesser evil.” For example, the RE 80 from Ansbach to Treuchtlingen should run largely according to the timetable, but the connection at 4:25 p.m. is canceled on weekdays for the time being. Instead, travelers have to wait half an hour for the next train. The important Augsburg – Munich route, on the other hand, should be completely spared from the initial difficulties.

Apart from the current problems, there have been few complaints about Go-Ahead in this country so far. The British railway company is entering the market in southern Germany. In Bavaria, she already took over the route between Munich and Lindau last year, to the satisfaction of passengers and the BEG, which certifies that commuting on this route is of “high quality”: The train failure rate is 0.9 percent below the Bavarian average of 4.6 percent as of the end of October. Although there are above-average delays, these are rarely to be attributed to Go-Ahead, but among other things to problems in long-distance traffic. In the BEG quality measurement system, which includes the cleanliness and functionality of the trains, passenger information and the service orientation of the train staff, Go-Ahead currently occupies fourth place out of 32 in the ranking with the E-Netz Allgäu.

Pro-Bahn man Lange also certifies that the company took up the fight against personnel problems early and with commitment. He therefore considers it realistic that, as announced, the full scope of the contractually agreed services can be provided from summer onwards. For a long time, however, it is surprising that so far there has been no talk of how subscription card holders are compensated for the loss of service. “We’re still waiting for suggestions.” Go-Ahead does not feel responsible for this, but refers to the BEG and the complex contract design in regional rail transport. Ultimately, says Karg, “we just pass on the fare.”

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