Due to ongoing problems with the rail operator Metronom, the state of Lower Saxony now wants to negotiate an early termination of the transport contract for the so-called Hanseatic network. The supervisory board of the Lower Saxony State Local Transport Company (LNVG) authorized the management to do this at a special meeting on Tuesday, the Ministry of Transport announced on Wednesday in Hanover. A corresponding contract should be drawn up by the end of February. The aim is to cancel the existing contract in June 2026 and then re-tender the routes and hand them over to another operator.
The important routes Hamburg-Bremen, Hamburg-Lüneburg-Uelzen, Uelzen-Celle-Hannover and Hanover-Northeim-Göttingen are affected. The Metronom railway company, which operates the routes on behalf of the LNVG, was recently only able to ensure limited traffic due to a lack of staff.
Replacement timetables with fewer trips have been in effect since the end of August 2023, which were recently extended until July 29th. There are “major problems with regard to the quality and reliability of the offer,” the ministry said in a statement. This made the resolution of the Supervisory Board necessary.
“Our goal is, on the one hand, to fully maintain traffic on the route until June 2026 and to improve the service again,” said Transport Minister Olaf Lies (SPD), according to the statement. “On the other hand, we now want to offer our employees reliability and good prospects at the same time.” Since the trains used by Metronom belong to LNVG, a change of operator is possible without major investments. The previous operator Metronom could also apply for a new tender, added Lies. "The Metronome brand is firmly established."
The Metronom Railway Company welcomed the move. “The common goal of the LNVG and us as railway operators is to terminate the existing contract by June 2026,” said a spokeswoman for the DPA. Since the start of the current contract in 2018, the general conditions for private railway companies have become significantly more difficult. In addition to rising costs, Metronome is also struggling with the severe shortage of skilled train drivers. “Against this background, Metronom asked the LNVG at the end of December to enter into appropriate negotiations in order to limit future losses from the transport contract, which runs until the end of 2033,” said the spokeswoman.
According to the Ministry of Transport, the network will be divided when the contract is awarded so that there could be several providers. Carmen Schwabl, managing director of the state local transport company, called for more money from the federal and state governments for local and regional transport.
Metronom has been operating the routes of today's Hanseatic network since the end of 2011. The current contract would normally run until December 2033. According to the ministry, around 80,000 people use the trains every day.