Germany's main train operator, the Deutsche Bahn AG ("German Railway Corporation", also known as DB or DBAG) provides passenger and freight service via federally owned tracks.
Before 1924, sovereign territories and kingdoms (e.g. Bavaria, Saxony, and Prussia) operated their own railways. In 1924 these Staats- and Länderbahnen [State and Territorial Railways] united to form the Deutsche Reichsbahngesellschaft (DRG) [German Imperial Railway Company].
After World War II, Germany (and the DRG) was divided into 4 zones: American, British, French and Soviet. The first three eventually combined to form the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the Russian zone became the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).
From 1949, the new governments assumed authority for railway operations. The DRG's successors were named Deutsche Bundesbahn (DB) [German Federal Railways] in the West, and Deutsche Reichsbahn (DR) [German Imperial Railways] in the East -- even though the empire had ceased to exist.
Unlike the DRG, which was a corporation, both the DB and the DR were federal institutions, directly controlled by their respective transportation ministries. Railway service between East and West was restricted; there were around five well-controlled and secure checkpoints between West Germany and East Germany, and about the same number between East Germany and West Berlin. Four transit routes existed between West Germany and West Berlin; citizens of West Berlin and West Germany were able to use these without too much harassment by the East German authorities.
In 1989, the Wall fell. Train frequency rapidly increased on the existing East/West corridors; closed links which had formerly crossed the border were re-opened in order to help Germans explore their newly found freedom.
On October 3, 1990, Germany was reunified; however, this was not the case with the railways. Administrative and organisational problems led to the decision to completely re-organise Germany's railways. The so-called Bahnreform [Railways Reform] came into effect in 1994, when the Deutsche Bundesbahn and the Deutsche Reichsbahn joined to form the Deutsche Bahn AG (DBAG).
Codeshare with airlines
In conjunction with American Airlines, Emirates, and Lufthansa, Deutsche Bahn operates rail services (AiRail Service) between Frankfurt International Airport and Bonn, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Freiburg, Hamburg, Hanover, Mannheim, Munich, Nuremberg, and Stuttgart. Deutsche Bahn has the IATA designator 2A.
Current corporate structure
DBAG is fully owned by the Federal Government, but is autonomous and expected to operate as a for-profit business. It is hoped that the privatisation and opening of German tracks to other railway companies will promote competition and efficiency, and eventually lead to higher standards and lower costs.
DBAG owns and manages various semi-independent subsidiaries:
- DB Netz: owns and maintains all track
- DB Station+Service: responsible for station buildings and platforms, ticket sales and general service
- DB Fernverkehr: operates long-distance trains, restaurant cars and food service inside stations
- DB Regio: operates short and medium distance trains as well as commuter services
- DB ZugBus: provides bus services and owns many smaller bus companies
- BRG (Bahnreinigungsgesellschaft): provides cleaning services
- BSG (Bahnschutzgesellschaft): employs safety patrol personnel for railway stations and trains, mostly at night
- DB Immobilien: manages all real estate
- DB Fuhrpark: owns all corporate cars
Chief executives of Deutsche Bundesbahn and Deutsche Bahn AG
- Heinz Maria Oeftering (1957-1972)
- Wolfgang Vaerst (1972-1982)
- Reiner Gohlke (1982-1990)
- Heinz Dürr (1991-1997)
- Johannes Ludewig (1997-1999)
- Hartmut Mehdorn (1999-present)