Home News In Germany, the championship went well, but the trains did not

In Germany, the championship went well, but the trains did not

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Niclas Füllkrug arrived early at the Adidas campus outside Herzogenaurach, a picturesque town in Bavaria where the German national team will host matches ahead of this summer’s European soccer championship. Staff had been told the players would arrive on Monday morning, a few days before the opening game. But Füllkrug, one of the team’s forwards, arrived on Sunday evening.

He decided to make the 300-mile journey from his hometown of Hanover on a high-speed train from German national railway company Deutsche Bahn, which is not only one of the event’s sponsors but also the flag bearer of its eco-credentials.

But for years, Deutsche Bahn has failed to invest in rolling stock, upgraded tracks and digitized signal boxes, resulting in frequent delays and cancellations of its trains. In a country that has long prided itself on efficiency and punctuality, the Germans – And fans — have been warning for months that the problems could derail the tournament.

So Fulkrug wasn’t surprised when he found himself crammed into a train car filled with high school students, answering their questions about life with the national team along the way.

By the time he arrived in Herzogenaurach, he had travelled several hours longer than he had expected, which was not ideal for a top athlete preparing on the eve of a major championship. However, the delay at least vindicated his decision to schedule an extra time. As Fulkrug said, in Germany, “Have some respect for Deutsche Bahn

Hundreds of thousands of fans from all over Europe – and a significant number from the United States — those who have spent the often tense opening week with him in Germany will no doubt know what he means.

Deutsche Bahn has been at the heart of Germany’s planning for the tournament. The company is offering “climate-friendly train travel” at discounted prices, in what organisers claim will be the “most sustainable” European Championship yet. When the draw took place in December, stage decorations included miniature versions of Deutsche Bahn’s long-distance high-speed trains.

However, as fans flocked to Germany to follow the team, the country’s rail network was overwhelmed. Even before the game on June 14, Munich Transport Authority staff were sent around the city to hand out popsicles to passengers who were stranded on trains for hours and sweltering.

In the Ruhr Valley industrial city of Gelsenkirchen, some England fans worried about missing their team’s kick-off decided to walk three miles to the city’s stadium after trams stopped running. In Stuttgart, Hungarian fans arrived at the city’s main railway station for the match on Thursday to find it had been replaced by a gaping hole as a result of a major renovation project that began in 2010.

Instead of arriving through a spacious hall, passengers who were leaving the train were directed through a huge wooden tunnel that snaked into the city. “I’m here to guide them,” said a representative of the Hungarian consulate, who was one of a dozen officials sent to guide the arriving passengers but did not want to be named.

Despite their best efforts, some fans found the tunnels so long and disorienting that, even when they had almost found their way out, they would double back and retrace their steps in the hope of leaving the station more quickly. (Deutsche Bahn Recently announced Completion of the Stuttgart project has been postponed again to December 2026.

In Hamburg, Cologne and Düsseldorf, the local traffic situation is slightly better: after the Hungary vs. Switzerland match in Cologne on June 15, trams lined up outside the stadium to clear the backlog of vehicles as quickly as possible.

Long-distance trains – offered to fans at discounted prices – are equally unpredictable. Germany’s rail network covers more than 20,000 miles. But about half the track has been removed in the past 70 years, and existing routes are overloaded as freight and passenger demand increases.

A late train can have a knock-on effect on other trains, causing widespread delays throughout the system. According to Deutsche Bahn, only 63% of the system’s trains arrived at their destinations on time last month. In comparison, neighboring Austria has an on-time rate of more than 94%, and France has an on-time rate of 87%.

The situation is so embarrassing for Germany that Felix Dachsel, a columnist for one of Germany’s largest media outlets, last week argued that it was necessary to “Apologize in all 21 languages ​​of the tournament” about the state of rail service. (At least he’s happy about it: after all, he says, what could be greener than a train that doesn’t run?)

“You can beat Germany, but you’ll lose to the German railways,” he wrote.

Critics have accused Deutsche Bahn, the national railway company for East and West Germany, of lacking investment in the system over the decades since it was founded in 1994. The German government is its sole shareholder.

“Strategically, the lack of funding has long been apparent,” said Andreas Knie, a professor at the Berlin Social Science Center whose research covers transport and technology. “As a rule of thumb, twice as much should be invested in rail.”

For a while, the system worked. When Germany last hosted a major tournament, the 2006 men’s football World Cup, Deutsche Bahn’s service was hailed as a key factor in the tournament’s success, helping to establish Germany’s lasting image as a smooth-running, thoroughly modern country.

This time around, many fans – and the Füllkrug – have learned to use the timetable as a guideline. That didn’t help Austrian fans who tried to get to Düsseldorf to watch their team take on France last Monday. Dozens were stranded after crossing the border into Germany, with some not arriving until late at the game. Entering the second half.

Deutsche Bahn said it would personally apologize to the stranded passengers. “We ask the fans to contact us,” said Ralph Thieme of the Deutsche Bahn station, which is responsible for serving the passengers. “We will find a good, fair way to compensate them.”

The problem has become so serious that despite Freeze government spendingGermany has allocated 40 billion euros (42.7 billion U.S. dollars) to invest in its old railways, and construction will begin on 40 major railway lines starting this year.

Deutsche Bahn has warned that this will mean dozens of construction sites on the main lines, so delays will be even worse. But at least fans don’t have to worry. Work is not scheduled to start until July 15 – the day after the final.

Tariq Panga and Christopher F. Schutz Contributed reporting.

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