The results were announced by the German Rail Industry Association (VDB) on April 5. However, the VDB says its members were dissatisfied with the current order intake. “The order intake of the railway industry in Germany amounted to €11.5bn in 2016,” says the VDB’s president Mr Volker Schenk. “This is about 23% less than the peak value of 2015. To put it clearly: we are not content with it. Inland demand reached €7bn in 2016, around 10% less than 2015, but a decent value. Demand abroad reached only €4.5bn and thus dropped by 38%.

“High volatility is common in our long-term project business,” Schenk continues, pointing to the deterioration in the global economic situation in 2016. “There is a growing tendency towards protectionism worldwide: commitment to localisation, restrictive joint ventures, generous state export financing, and market segregation. German and European economic policy must be even more effective for free trade, open market access and fair conditions of competition. The free trade agreement with Japan offers an important opportunity.”

Rail vehicles and components sales totalled €8.7bn in 2016, accounting for round 74% of total sales. The domestic rail vehicle market fell by 17% to €3.9bn after two years of growth whereas rail vehicle exports grew by around 7% to €4.8bn.

Sales of digital control and safety technology, track, turnouts, electrification, and signalling interlockings stagnated at €3.1bn, which the VDB describes as “sobering.”
“The railway industry in Germany is in a consolidation phase,” Schenk says. “Overcapacities are being reduced, companies are re-emerging. Nevertheless, in 2016, our industry has again secured a high level of employment. The number of direct employees was 50,500. A good figure, but compared with 2015 a reduction of 2.9 %. We wanted something different.”

The VDB is calling for a railway research programme to be launched after the national elections to accelerate railway digitisation. It also wants the government to significantly strengthen its efforts towards achieving more free trade and fair competition.

The VDB’s chief executive Mr Ben Möbius emphasised the importance of achieving low-noise rail freight transport in order to gain public acceptance. He says the announcement by the Federal Ministry of Transport to introduce an innovation award for super-quiet freight wagons is an important political step which should create incentives to invest in new freight wagons that are quieter than European rules call for. “Noise protection has to be implemented holistically, ie on the track as well as on the vehicle,” says Möbius. “Digital technologies can also be used here.”