Local public transport How punctual are the trains in Bonn and the region?

Rhein-Sieg-Kreis/Bonn · The current quality report on regional transport shows a slight improvement in punctuality and cancellations in Bonn and the region. But there are still plenty of problems.

 The Mittelrheinbahn (RB 26) on open track. Photo: Axel Vogel/AXEL VOGEL

The Mittelrheinbahn (RB 26) on open track. Photo: Axel Vogel/AXEL VOGEL

Foto: Axel Vogel/AXEL VOGEL

Delays, train cancellations, lack of seats and missing information. Life as a train passenger can be quite tedious and nerve-wracking. Once a year, the emotional state of the passengers is backed up with figures - when the Zweckverband Nahverkehr Rheinland (NVR) presents its report on local rail passenger transport (SPNV) between the Eifel, Rhineland and Bergisches Land.

■ Overall conclusion: According to the NVR, there are moderate improvements in 2019 in the central criteria such as punctuality, train cancellations and capacity. In 2018, the situation had deteriorated even further. The data are collected by the railway undertakings. NVR managing director Heiko Sedlaczek attributes the slightly improved values to improvements in the overall network. "In the meantime, the investments in the expansion of the rail infrastructure and rolling stock are bearing the first fruits," he says. The vehicle fleet has been expanded, so that operations have stabilised. According to Sedlaczek, improved concepts for construction sites and weather events are also taking effect. The report also contains a great deal of data on the trains running in the region.

■ Punctuality: According to the report, the average delay of trains in the NVR area has decreased from 2.16 minutes in 2018 to 2.01 minutes in 2019. Nevertheless, the situation remains tense in some areas, for example on the left bank of the Rhine between Cologne and Bonn. This was demonstrated by the Regional Express (RE) 5, which stops at Bonn Central Station, with an average delay of a good four minutes, and the Regionalbahn (RB) 26, which also stops at Roisdorf and Sechtem, with an average delay of just under four minutes. However, the situation for the RE 5 has improved considerably, with the average delay according to the 2018 and 2017 reports having been more than five minutes in each case. On the right bank of the Rhine, for example, the RE 9, which was travelling along the Sieg, was on average around two and a half minutes late, while the RE 8, which was travelling through Königswinter and Bad Honnef, was only a good one and a half minutes late. Incidentally, the delay at the NVR is calculated to the second. Some companies would still consider a train to be on time, even though it is a few minutes late.

■ Train cancellations: Reasons for train cancellations are defective vehicles, staff shortages, but also construction sites on the lines. For example, the RE 8 suffered from the permanent construction site for the extension of the S 13 between Troisdorf and Bonn. Around nine percent of all connections were cancelled in 2019; a good two percent without replacement, which means that there were no replacement buses. The construction site also affected the RB 27 (with stops in Beuel and Bad Honnef, among others). The result: a good seven percent failure, three percent of which was without replacement. On the left bank of the Rhine, the RB 26 stands out negatively. Due to massive personnel bottlenecks, a replacement timetable has been introduced (from) since July 2019. As a result, around eleven percent of all journeys were cancelled, almost nine percent of them without replacement.

According to the NVR report, there have been improvements, for example, on the S 23 (Bonn-Euskirchen). In 2018, the cancellation rate was still around 2.5 percent (around 1.5 percent without replacement). In 2019 it was around 1.5 percent (around one percent without replacement). According to spokeswoman Jessica Buhl, a train is considered to be cancelled by the NVR if it is delayed more than its scheduled time, i.e. more than 30 minutes, when the connection usually runs at 30-minute intervals.

■ Capacity: The trains become cramped when there are fewer cars than originally planned. The RE 8, for example, does not cope well with this, with almost four percent of the agreed capacity being lost. The situation was even worse in 2019 for the RB 48, which runs through the foothills: there the failure rate was almost five percent. According to the NVR, this was due to the permanent loss of three vehicles involved in an accident, which could only be partially compensated by additional rented vehicles. The best figure was for the RB 30 driving to the Ahr, where the loss of capacity was well below one percent.

■ Vehicles: Here the NVR looks at reported failures of toilets and air conditioning systems, among other things. In the case of toilet facilities, the RE 9 is clearly negative. On around five percent of all journeys there were malfunctions in the toilets. The NVR believes that this is due, among other things, to the vehicle concept (double-decker trains with a high number of toilets per train). This in turn increases the probability that at least one toilet facility is defective. With regard to air-conditioning systems, the NVR finds it "remarkable" in the report that there had been "no functional damage subject to reporting" on RB 26. Malfunctions on the external doors often lead to delays. Here too, RE 9 stands out. Reason: "The doors of the increasingly used double-deck trains are proving to be comparatively susceptible to faults. Furthermore, door defects are also a major problem with the RB 30 and the S 23.

■ Passenger figures: "The overall development of demand is also positive in 2019, the trend of increasing passenger numbers continues. 2019 is the fifth year in a row with growth," it says. Calculated for the year 2019, around 163 million people were transported in the SPNV on NVR routes, which represents an increase of around 1.4 percent compared to 2018. There was a significant increase in the number of passengers on the S 19 (+ 39.5 percent), which travels to Au (Sieg), but the decline was more pronounced on RB 26 (- 7.5 percent).

For 2020 it is already clear that passenger numbers will plummet due to the corona pandemic. In the meantime, the NVR had reported only a quarter of the usual number of passengers. Basically, according to Sedlaczek, further efforts are needed to provide a good service. "Only the urgently needed further expansion of the infrastructure can lead to long-term improvements," he says.

Original text: Christoph Meurer

Translation: Mareike Graepel

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