Königswinter · The Drachenfels rack railway should actually be up and running again on this long weekend but it’s standing still for the time being. It is classified as a historical railway and this means it is subject to very strict guidelines.
It is ready to start running again, but for now it will remain at the valley station. It was planned that the Drachenfels railway would be bringing the first tourists to Drachenburg Castle or further up to the plateau on this long Whitsun weekend. However, it is proving to be economically not feasible due to its classification as a historical railway by the Infection Protection Act. Klaus Hacker, Chairman of the Board of Bergbahnen im Siebengebirge AG explains, "This means that we are only allowed to let nine people on the railway on each trip.” “By way of comparison, we need seven to ten people to operate the railway.”
The classification as a historical railway means the trips are viewed as pure recreational pleasure - unlike rides on buses and trams - and the requirements are therefore particularly strict. These include a safety distance of one and a half meters between passengers and the registration of their contact details. Further hygiene measures have already been prepared: Distance markings in the station, dispensers with disinfectants and ticket machines in front of the entrance to the platform.
It isn’t only Hacker and his 18 employees who are waiting for the cogs to start moving again. Many walkers at the Drachenfels also take a look through the closed doors of the valley station before they set off on foot on the steep path up the mountain.
Hacker is now hoping for further loosening of restrictions with the next version of the Infection Protection Law in mid-June or an exemption from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. "If we could get that, we could start our operations in just two hours." The close contacts with local politicians and the state level of Fiona Streve-Mülhens Achenbach, chairman of the supervisory board of the operating company, should make this possible.
"Of course we also want the railway to run again," says Königswinter's mayor Peter Wirtz. He too has already written a letter to the state government in Düsseldorf. However, he does not share Klaus Hacker's calculation that each trip would only take nine people up the Drachenfels: "In my estimation, the one and a half meter distance starts after each group of passengers," says Wirtz.
Families, for example, would not have to keep a distance between themselves. According to this interpretation, the Drachenfels railway could then run with around 20 passengers - Hacker had estimated this number to restart operations. During normal operation in corona-free times, the cars could accommodate up to 80 passengers. The Drachenfels railway in Königswinter has now been out of operation for ten weeks. A further delay is just as big a problem for the operating company as running at a loss. Hacker: "We cannot hold out for six or seven more weeks.”
Orig. text: Andrea Ziech -Translation: ck