According to a new forecast by the Ministry of Transport, freight traffic in Germany will increase significantly by the middle of the century - especially on the road. The truck remains the dominant means of transport in the goods sector, said Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP). Against this background, he reiterated his demand for faster construction of motorways as well.
According to the forecast commissioned by the ministry, freight transport will increase by almost half by 2051 compared to 2019. Growth of 54 percent is expected for road, and freight traffic by rail will increase by a third.
According to the forecast, passenger traffic will increase by 13 percent. Strong growth is expected for rail, air and bicycle traffic. Road traffic will only increase slightly. Nevertheless, the car remains by far the most important means of transport.
"Urgent planning acceleration also necessary for the road"
"The results show impressively that we cannot achieve our goals of demand-based transport by expanding rail and waterways alone," said Wissing. "We need an efficient and climate-neutral road mode of transport." Accelerated planning is also urgently needed for the road. Bottlenecks that caused traffic jams would have to be eliminated. These caused considerable economic damage. Wissing advocated forward-looking traffic planning.
A fierce argument has been smoldering in the traffic light coalition for weeks about priority in accelerating planning processes. Wissing not only wants to have bridges built faster, but also motorways - but the Greens reject that. In view of the planned climate protection goals, they insist on priority for rail.
Structural change in freight transport
Wissing made it clear that rail expansion was his top priority. However, a lot has been missed on the railways in the past, the network is overloaded. That should be fixed now, but it will take time. The alternative to expanding the transport infrastructure on the road is to limit mobility. But that would mean less growth and less tax revenue.
The ministry cites a structural change in freight transport as the main reason for the sharp increase in road traffic. Due to the energy transition, there is a sharp decline in bulk and energy goods such as coal, coke, petroleum products and ores, which were previously transported primarily by rail and waterway. On the other hand, there is great growth in goods that are mainly transported by road, such as postal items or food.
The haulage companies also referred to this. The Federal Association of Road Haulage, Logistics and Waste Disposal in Frankfurt said that rail would only be expected to relieve the burden on these goods to a limited extent. "In Germany we have dilapidated bridges, an acute shortage of drivers and the network expansion for charging infrastructure is a long way off." These problems must be solved. Combined road and rail transport remains the main growth segment.
Skepticism from the Greens
The Greens met with great skepticism about the new traffic forecast. "This forecast cannot and will not be the basis for any infrastructure planning," said Green Railway expert Matthias Gastel. "Developments from the past were largely transferred to the future instead of controlling developments according to a concept." With more and more roads, Wissing wants to roll out the "red carpet" for an increase in trucks. "His job, however, would be to ensure a more efficient rail network and to strengthen the competitiveness of the freight railway."
Criticism also came from environmental groups. Jürgen Resch, Federal Managing Director of the German Environmental Aid, commented that the FDP had no interest in modern and sustainable transport policy or in complying with legally binding climate targets. The climate protection movement Fridays for Future, which demonstrated on Friday for more climate protection, called, among other things, for an expansion stop for motorways.
For the network of European railways, an association of competitors of the federally owned Deutsche Bahn, managing director Peter Westenberger criticized that the ministry's study was useless. It is regrettable that the experts disseminated "unsustainable rough estimates" about the future of rail freight transport and predicted a declining market share of 17.3 percent in 30 years.