We need a shift to environmentally and climate-friendly modes of transport and cross-transport funding. To achieve this, the railways must be placed before the roads, both financially and, above all, politically. Our goal is to double the number of passengers – with the introduction of the “Deutschlandtakt” interval timetable for Germany by 2030 – and bring more freight traffic onto the railways. What is important is that mobility must remain affordable for everyone – only in this way can we persuade people to switch from low-cost airlines to rail. To this end, we must eliminate the competitive disadvantages of rail compared with other modes of transport, improve the framework conditions and invest more in rail.
The aim of policy must be to create a level playing field for all modes of transport. We have unequal competitive conditions in rail transport due to the high electricity and track prices (rail toll), but also due to the lowering of the truck road toll per kilometre and the lack of road tolls for long-distance buses. The SPD is therefore calling for a significant reduction in track and electricity prices. The framework conditions must be designed in such a way that all modes of transport are used sensibly and by 2050 a high-quality, climate-neutral and socially acceptable transport system that can be used by all is achieved.
Since the first railway package in 1991, major steps have been taken towards a common European railway market, especially with regard to the opening of the network. However, the goal of a single European railway area has not yet been achieved. Above all, the unfinished technical harmonisation of the European transport market, in particular the introduction of the uniform European train control system ETCS, still represents a major obstacle at present. The aim must be to create common standards and interfaces for the existing systems, to further open up the market for rail transport in Europe and to strengthen the institutional administration of the European Railway Agency (ERA). We need a clear political commitment to promoting rail transport – in Germany and in Europe.
It is very regrettable that the night train service in Germany has been discontinued. After all, thanks to cooperation with the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB), some night train connections have been maintained. Increased cross-border cooperation within Europe is very welcome. To this end, the European railways must cooperate more closely. The operation of the network depends to a large extent on the willingness of neighbouring railways to cooperate and on the level of track access fees in the countries. That is why we are calling for a significant reduction in track access fees – only in this way can we make our customers an attractive travel offer.
The aim of the European high-speed rail network is to shift more traffic, especially freight traffic, from road to rail and to create faster, more efficient connections. The Commission shares the concerns expressed by the European Court of Auditors and is working on solutions. Thanks to the provisions of the fourth railway package, the European Railway Agency has already begun to remove obstacles in the form of more than 11,000 national rules. This is welcome. One thing is certain: For the targeted implementation of construction projects on European high-speed lines, such as the Brenner Base Tunnel, economic efficiency has the highest priority. The latter must be clearly demonstrated by sound and reliable figures and traffic estimates. In future, the local population should also be more involved in planning processes in the form of citizen dialogues – this has been neglected in recent years. We need cross-border transport concepts in order to reduce the traffic burden on the population. However, this must not be done at the expense of wrong traffic forecasts and unnecessary use of land and nature.
Quality and punctuality are important prerequisites for increasing the attractiveness of rail as a mode of transport. If we want to achieve our goal of shifting more traffic to the railways, we must also strengthen consumer rights. Rail passengers must be entitled to punctual trains – for whatever reason a train is delayed.
Measures to regulate air traffic, such as the taxation of kerosene or a CO2 tax, only make sense at international level. If the EU or Germany were to go it alone, other airlines that are not subject to the same burdens would have a clear advantage. Our priority is to shift more domestic flights to rail and to network airports more closely with other modes of transport. This requires more investment in rail and the expansion of high-speed lines. We see bans on certain flights as legally problematic.
Within the framework of the international aviation organization, we are committed to global climate protection solutions. That is why we are calling for the introduction of a cross-sectoral pricing of CO2 emissions – i.e. a uniform CO2 compensation system – vis-à-vis a sector-specific kerosene tax.
The attractiveness of the railways must be enhanced to such an extent that more people board the train. To achieve this, we need more investment in network expansion, an improvement in quality and punctuality at Deutsche Bahn and affordable fares. In our view, a general ban on short-haul flights is not the right approach to making global air traffic more climate-friendly. Instead, the incentives must be changed. This has already been achieved on the new high-speed route between Munich and Berlin, where rail replaced air travel as the market leader in its first year.