Deutsche Bahn invests several millions in consulting services

Author: Marcus Schilling
Date: 17.09.2018

Railway workers react critically

The Deutsche Bahn has once again invested several hundred million euros in consultants. But the railway workers regard this decision as critical. Railway boss Lutz shall now provide solutions.

“The executive board must explain what they want to do differently now” demands the chairman of the railway union EVG, Alexander Kirchner. For a long time now, it has not been enough just to criticize the situation. And Jens Schwart, chairman of the group works council is also asking himself: “How do we deal with this know?” and is expecting a solution just like Kirchner.

Lutz and the other board members had just written a begging letter to Deutsche Bahn executives on 8 September. In terms of profitability, punctuality, quality and management, Deutsche Bahn is currently in a “difficult situation”. The control of expenditure initiated by Lutz was interpreted by the group as a spending freeze. The group works council regarded this as “unsuitable”.

Another point of criticism is the renewed use of the management consultancies McKinsey, Boston Consulting and Strategy&, which, according to the railway workers, was already unsuccessful last time with the “Zukunft Bahn” restructuring concept. The railway “doesn’t need any more external consultants, they need the expertise that is available in-house in the operative business which only needs to be called upon” says EVG boss Kirchner.

Fact is: the expenditures on externals consultancy are far too high. While the expenses in 2012 were 190 million euros, they have now already broken through the 325 million euros barrier. Together with the costs for the auditors it should even reach 350 million euros.

The idea behind “Zukunft Bahn” was to significantly improve the quality of the service. For rail customers this would means, for example, that trains arrive and depart on time. However, the current situation is the complete opposite: recently, the number of punctual long-distance trains was less than 70 percent.

The situation in freight transport is even more acute. While some time ago 3,000 freight trains were on the railway a day, the current figure is only 2,500 a day. A newly introduced production structure is blamed for this. DB Cargo’s expected annual deficit is currently estimated at 165 million euros. Politicians are reacting with criticism and are making transport Minister Andreas Scheuer in particular responsible. Cem Özdemir, Chairman of the Bundestag’s transportation committee, described the begging letter as an “alarm signal to the federal government, which even a CSU transport minister can no longer ignore”. Money is not the solution of the problem. The focus has been on road traffic for a long time now. In addition, the Bahn had overestimated them with the aim of transforming the company into an international logistics champion. Özdemir demands that the Bahn should focus on their core business again.

Sören Bartol, SPD transport politician, mentioned that the current situation of the railways requires “clear control and guidance” by the transport minister. So far, however, the Minister has only made a general statement on transport policy without explicitly addressing the problems of the railways. The Deutsche Bahn emphasizes that the problems of the group are also strongly influenced by transport policy over and over again. The main problem, however, is probably to develop concepts that would solve the other problems in the long term. The “dissatisfying cross-business cooperation” is the core problem according to Lutz.

Example: There are a total of three production directors. Or: DB Netz collects the money for the track systems, DB Regio and DB Fernverkehr use these tracks and have to pay for them. DB Station & Service takes care of station management and the ticket vending machines are part of DB’s sales operations – and all this at each station. So far there is no better solution.

The statement that “operational management will be carried out to a greater extent by the Group Management Board in the future” is highly controversial. And this is precisely where the problem lies for the railway workers. “The managers must finally get out of their office towers and listen more to the railway workers who know the business” Kirchner demanded.

After all, there is one point that gives pleasure: the Bahn wants to invest around one billion euros in new ICE and Euro city trains. A railway inspector will hardly resist a fresh working environment.