VDV says the introduction of a vaccine will only result in a recovery in passenger numbers if a large portion of the public receive it, with restrictions on passenger numbers and an increase in working from home expected to continue.  

“What we have feared over the past few weeks and months is now shown in black and white,” says VDV president, Mr Ingo Wortmann. “Although we are anticipating a gradual market recovery, the coming year will still bring significant coronavirus-related damage due to a lack of passengers and income.  

“We only expect a noticeable recovery towards the end of 2021. At the same time, we as an industry will of course try everything to minimise losses. Much of this, however, is not in our hands, such as the availability of the vaccine and the capacity to vaccinate as many people as possible. What we can do is ensure sufficient bus and train services are made available to provide stable public transport operation and to respond to the changed mobility requirements of our passengers with more flexible ticket offers. 

“In addition, we will continue to invest in hygiene measures and provide customers with extensive information on the low risk of infection on local public transport.”  

Operators are anticipating increased losses over the remaining months of 2020 following the introduction of new lockdowns, continued reduced working hours, the absence of tourists and the cancellation of events, trade fairs and Christmas markets.  

“In September, we were already back at around 80% of the passenger numbers we had before the pandemic broke out,” Wortmann says. “Since June, demand has gradually increased. But due to the overall sharp rise in the number of infections and the associated second lockdown, the figures have been falling again since mid-October. 

“Although significantly lower than during the first lockdown, we currently assume that in November and December only about 50-60% of the usual passengers will travel by bus and train. This means that in the pre-Christmas period, which is usually very strong in terms of demand and revenue, we will see considerable losses in ticket revenue.” 

Rescue package   

VDV says that operators have only been able to continue offering almost 100% of regular services because of the €5bn rescue package supplied by the federal government and states in the spring.  

“In the nine months since the outbreak of the pandemic, we will need about €3.5bn of the €5bn to compensate for the losses until the end of the year,” he says. “The remaining €1.5bn will probably last until April next year. For the rest of 2021 there will then still be around €2bn in losses that will need to be covered. 

“Therefore, we will discuss a continuation of the rescue package with the federal government and the states.”