NETHERLANDS Railways (NS) has agreed to sell 100% of the shares of Abellio Germany to BeNEX, a shareholder in five regional operators in Germany, which is owned by International Public Partnerships (INPP), an investor in infrastructure projects worldwide.

The transaction includes operators Abellio Rail Mitteldeutschland and WestfalenBahn, as well as PTS, which provides cleaning and security services for public transport and other markets.

Abellio Germany currently operates three regional concessions in eight states. In 2023 the company had a turnover of in excess of €400m and more than 1600 employees. It operates a total of 28 lines and 120 trains to provide 26 million train-km a year, which is due to fall to 16 million train-km in 2025.

The acquisition will see BeNEX operate 65 million train-km a year and take its total headcount to over 3500. BeNEX holds stakes in Agilis, Cantus, Nordbahn and Metronom, which operate 49 million train-km a year with a fleet of 180 trains.

The value of the transaction has not been disclosed. The sale must be approved by the German competition authority, as well as the state governments concerned, and is expected to be completed in the second half of this year.

“With the expanded group of companies we can meet the various challenges in the current market environment even better, and create synergies to create further profitable growth,” says BeNEX managing director, Mr Michael von Mallinckrodt.

“For our employees, our passengers and our public transport authorities, BeNEX’s involvement means long-term planning security and new growth prospects,” says Abellio Germany CEO, Mr Rolf Schafferath.”

The end of NS’ international adventure

Having completed the sale of Abellio UK (now Transport UK Group) to a management buy-out team in February 2023, the disposal of Abellio Germany brings NS’ activities outside of the Netherlands to an end.

NS says that while Abellio UK made a positive contribution, the negative impact of Abellio Germany meant that Abellio had a negative financial impact of around €260m overall during its 20-year existence.

It stresses that Abellio has been separate from its core business of operating the Main Line Network (HRN) under a concession directly awarded by the Dutch government. “The departure of NS from Germany therefore has no impact on Dutch passengers,” NS says.

“When NS took its first steps across the border about 20 years ago, the starting point was that we wanted to prepare for the changing European rail market,” says NS finance director, Ms Angelique Magielse.

“In recent years, that necessity has disappeared,” she adds. “Due to various developments, including the Covid-19 pandemic, we also had to conclude that our remaining foreign activities did not contribute enough. That is why we have decided to sell Abellio Germany.”