Deutsche Bahn and Climate Change

Term Paper, 2018

6 Pages, Grade: 1.7



Table of content:








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1. Introduction

According to a study by the "Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research" the Deutsche Bahn (DB) Group is amongst the German companies that are most severely affected by climate change (Deutsche Bahn, 2018}. Since climate change is caused by pollution at a local level, interlinked with the social ecosystem (Grimm et al., 2008; Figure 1),both environmental as well as societalfactors will be analyzed.

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2. Extreme weather

Climate change has affected Germany with rising temperatures as well as storms,flooding and droughts.Subsequently,extreme weather events was amongst the top ranked risks since 2014 (WEF,2018).Cities suffer especially,due to the "urban heat island effect" temperatures may exceed up to lODC the temperature of rural areas {The Climate Reality Project,2018).

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DB is particularly affected by the effects of climate change.On the one hand DB is suffering an image problem due to many delays and on the other hand climate change is having a negative economic effect on the company. While airlines can refer to it an act of nature beyond control and therefore do not have to compensate the customer, DB has to compensate its customers from as little as one hour delay, also if caused by the weather (Suddeutsche, 2019). However,it was found that in the past several electrical shorts in cold weather were triggered by poor maintenance,for instance, in winter 2009. In 2010 the air conditioning systems of ICEs consecutively broke down and the trains only stopped when passengers passed out at temperature of sooc (Kroger & Seith, 2010). In 2018, the storm "Friederike" heavily affected the rail traffic,which was suspended across Germany.Germany's train drivers union (GDL) commented that suspending all traffic was excessive,since not all regions were equally affected (Deutsche Welle, 2018). It has been shown that delays and cancellations after storms are a direct consequence of the lack of cutting trees back that grow right next to the rail tracks (The Local,2018). These examples highlight that DB is not only a victim of the climate change effects,but also uses it as an excuse.

As a response to these incidents,DB developed a 5-point strategy.The plan includes increasing thetree cuttings alongthe railtracks and constructions,such as safety nets,in order to provide increased safety duringstorms (Deutsche Bahn,2018).Moreover,the company plans to install more robust and intelligent control technology,including the installation of cooling facilities. Further, DB expanded its use of technology by UBIMET (2016), which provides weather information and predictions with the aim to keep tracks free of ice.Finally,DB increased the share of renewable energy,following its vision to be C02 emission free by 2050 throughout the whole group (Deutsche Bahn,2018),more thoroughly discussed below.

3. Renewable & Electric energy

Germany has set ambitious goals with regard to the reduction of C02 emissions by increasing the use of renewable energy to 35% by 2020, but it has not succeeded in achieving it yet (Appunn & Wettengel,2018; Figure 3).To the contrary,DB achieved to use 44% renewable energy in 2017 and 57% in 2018 (Deutsche Bahn,2017;Railway News,2018).

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DB plans to install solar roofs on its 5,700 stations and invested in the operation of two wind parks and signed a €1.3bn hydro-electric supply contract with RWE for yearly 900mn kw/h over 15 years (Kirschbaum, 2011). Before the Fukushima incident, DB heavily relied on nuclear energy, however, now fully supports the government’s plan to phase out nuclear power by 2022 (PHYS, 2011). Since trains operate on a lower frequency (16.7 Hertz) than usual (50 Hertz), switching from nuclear power poses a challenge to the company. Despite its efforts to increase the share of renewable energy, DB still obtains 16% of its energy from the nuclear EnBW plant in Neckarwestheim. As a consequence, DB pays €350mn into a fund for the disposal of nuclear waste alongside nuclear plant operators (Flauger & Fockenbrock, 2016). Accordingly, DB is facing some challenges with regard to energy supply, with its railways alone using 2% of Germany’s electricity (Kirschbaum, 2011). On the one hand DB calls itself Germany’s "biggest consumer of green energy" (PHYS, 2011), but on the other hand did not achieve the nuclear power phase out yet.

With regard to electromobility, the recharging process poses a challenge for DB, however, also an opportunity due to lower energy consumption compared to Diesel engines. DB is currently testing EVs as distribution trucks as well as electric bikes (Deutsche Bahn, 2018).

4 . Societal factors

Due to a change in mindset and increased awareness, customers put more emphasis on the use of electric energy, and the sharing economy emerged (Csizmazia, 2015). Further trend include urbanization and less car owners (UNICEF, 2009). As a reaction, DB extended its value chain and introduced the station-based carsharing model “Flinkster” and the electric alternatives E-Flinkster and “Multicity Carsharing” (Hülsmann, 2016). Since 2014 Flinkster cooperates with Car2go, creating a fleet of 6,600 vehicles, and thereby better satisfying the customer needs (Mobilaro, 2014). Similarly, the bike-sharing-service “Call A Bike” serves these needs.

Furthermore, changing demographics, especially Germany’s aging population, pose an opportunity for DB. Since it is expected that elderly people will have to redo their car license, car users will decline and alternative transportation is expected to benefit.

5 . Conclusion and recommendations

Overall, trends, such as extreme weather events and the phase out of nuclear energy, pose serious risks for DB. The company has proven its commitment to switch to renewable energy, however, due to its low cost strategy, DB has not invested sufficiently in the trains’ maintenance and tracks. As a consequence, DB has been severely affected by extreme weather events and its image of reliability suffered greatly. Accordingly, the main recommendation is to focus more on the trains’ maintenance in order to pertain a positive image. Furthermore, DB is recommended to invest in technology that supports its reliability, such as predictive artificial intelligence, and that serves the customers’ need, for instance, more seamless integration of the different applications and services.


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Deutsche Bahn and Climate Change
Global Trends
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deutsche, bahn, climate, change
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Anonymous, 2018, Deutsche Bahn and Climate Change, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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