REGIONAL transport authorities Rhine-Ruhr Transport Association (VRR), Westfalia-Lippe Local Transport (NWL), and Rhineland Regional Transport Association (NVR) have announced the replacement contractors for Abellio’s activities in the Ruhr region of Germany, which it will cease to operate from February 1.

All of the emergency contracts run until December 2023 and utilise train fleets owned by the transport authorities concerned. Work to organise a new long-term tender process for the period beyond December 2023 is underway.

National Express will take over both Rhine-Ruhr-Express (RRX) routes operated using VRR-owned class 462 Desiro HC EMUs on RE 1 Aachen - Hamm, and RE 11 Düsseldorf - Paderborn/Kassel services. National Express already operates all the other RRX routes 

Regional operator Vias will take over the diesel route S7 Wuppertal - Solingen via Remscheid plus the cross-border RE19 route linking Düsseldorf with Arnhem, which is operated with dual voltage Stadler Flirt EMUs.

DB Regio will take over all the other remaining Abellio contracts, representing around 10 million train-km annually. These comprise S Bahn routes S2, S3 and S9 as well as regional routes RB33, RB40 and RE49 plus the Ruhr-Sieg network routes RB 91, RB 46 and RE 16 serving Hagen and Siegen. DB will take over more than 500 former Abellio employees.

Abellio, a subsidiary of Netherlands Railways (NS), announced earlier this month that it will no longer operate the services. Abellio entered a three-month period of court supervised financial protection in July and did seek to renegotiate its existing contracts with German states, although this has been only partially successful, with most other contracts either ending shortly or being removed completely.

Abellio’s decision to no longer run services in the Ruhr region will limit its future financial exposure but may leave it open to claims for damages from the transport authorities affected.

While the Abellio NorthRhine-Westfalia (Abellio NRW) company based in Hagen was the first Abellio rail operation in Germany, the contract terms Abellio NRW had agreed for recent contracts had become too onerous. Many of the contracts that have caused the recent financial and operational problems were awarded from 2016 onwards. Abellio, like other German regional operators, has complained of driver shortages plus disruption and unplanned expenses due to infrastructure work.