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Buses Overtake Trains

Private Train HKX_DPA
HKX will no longer offer long-distance passenger service.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Fierce competition from new low-cost bus operators may force the government to rethink its long-distance bus policy if it wants to retain a competitive rail service.

  • Facts


    • Deutsche Bahn’s only long-distance rail competitors are exiting the market.
    • Hamburg-Cologne Express and Veolia Transport both say they cannot compete with bus companies.
    • Veolia Transport complains bus firms have unfair competitive advantages.
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The leaders of railway reform celebrated at the start of the year. At a ceremony in Berlin, former presidents, board chairmen and others praised the liberalization of rail transportation and the beneficial effects of competition. Today, almost a third of freight traffic is carried by competitors of the former monopoly Deutsche Bahn, as well as a quarter of local commuters. And the numbers are rising.

By contrast, little competition exists in long-distance passenger transportation. Only two rail operators dared to compete against Deutsche Bahn: the Hamburg-Cologne Express, also known as HKE, which is financed with U.S. money; and Interconnex between Leipzig and Rostock, which is run by the French group Veolia Transport. Both attempts have not been successful.

Interconnex will “decide in the coming weeks if and how to continue,” said Christian Schreyer, the German chief executive. The company has been operating for 12 years.

HKX, however, will continue to operate between Hamburg and Cologne but no longer provide long-distance passenger service. Instead, the company will offer local commuter services along this route.


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