October 12, 2016

Buses to replace trams on German inter-urban line?

Written by  Keith Fender
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Buses to replace trams on German inter-urban line? Keith Fender

The future of tram services on the 21.7km metre-gauge Thüringerwaldbahn from Gotha to Tabarz is in question after local bus operator Steinbrück offered to provide the same level of service for less than the €2.8m which Thüringerwaldbahn und Strassenbahn Gotha (TWSB) receives annually.

The formal proposal to the Administrative Court in Weimar has now been made by Steinbrück claiming that using buses could operate without subsidy, despite the need to buy 13 new vehicles, and will save around €30 million over ten years. A decision is expected in December.

The bus company's owner Mr Wolfgang Steinbrück is President of the German bus operators association. He is however also a member of the conservative (CDU) group which currently controls the city council in Gotha and as such had recently approved the local transport plan for 2017-2021 which included funding for the Thüringerwaldbahn.

TWSB currently has a contract that runs to 2024 but Steinbrück has pointed out that the five tram lines it operates are covered by permits that expire in July 2017. The Thüringerwaldbahn infrastructure has been extensively modernised in the last ten years and is in good condition but the line relies on relatively old, and mostly second-hand trams.

Political opposition to the proposal - across the political spectrum including from within the conservative (CDU) group is growing and an online petition has attracted more than 7500 signatories.

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