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BNetzA approves train-path prices for 2021

As a result of changes in the Regionalization Act (RegG) and the Railway Regulation Act (EregG), two fee approval procedures were needed for the 2021 train-path pricing system (TPS). The BNetzA had initially approved a 5.2 % increase in train-path usage fees for regional rail passenger transport together with a reduction in fees of 5.6% for long-distance rail passenger transport and 2.4 % for rail freight transport compared to the 2020 TPS. The reason for the significant increase in regional rail passenger transport fees on the one hand and the decrease in rail freight transport and long-distance rail passenger transport on the other was the change in the RegG, which entered into force with retroactive effect from January 1, 2020. This resulted in an increase in regionalization funds. Because changes in train-path usage fees for regional rail passenger transport were linked by the ERegG to the indexing rate for regionalization funds, the increase in funds had a direct effect on regional rail passenger transport fees. This link was removed in June 2020 with the change in the ERegG, and the price increase for regional rail passenger transport was limited to 1.8 %. The BNetzA therefore initiated a process of partial revocation of the ruling for the 2021 TPS and announced new TPS fees for 2021 on September 21, 2020. The partial revocation process led to the approval of adjustments of +2.4 % for long-distance rail passenger transport and rail freight transport and of +1.8 % for regional rail passenger transport.

Irrespective of this, as it did in its decisions in previous years, BNetzA has raised the train-path prices originally proposed in most segments of long-distance rail passenger transport in the wake of the approval, and lowered them for standard rail freight transport trains. DB Netz AG had filed a com­plaint against this decision in previous years. A final legally binding judgment based on a possible multiple-instance decision of the dispute in question is not anticipated in the near future. The legal uncertainty that is therefore likely to persist for an unforeseeable period of time carries the risk that capital expenditures in rail freight transport will be deferred or growth opportunities will not be realized. Against this background, DB Netz AG has decided to withdraw the existing demands for relief and not to file a further lawsuit against the amendment within the framework of the TPS 2021.

BNetzA sets maximum limits on total costs for the working timetable period of 2020/2021

In a decision on March 25, 2020, as part of regulating the incentivization of train-path prices, the BNetzA set the maximum limits for total costs of DB Netz AG and DB RegioNetz Infrastruktur GmbH, for the working schedule period 2020/2021, at about € 5.5 billion. The recognition of LuFV III as a qualified regulatory agreement has allowed the upper limit to be raised from that set in the decision of July 22, 2019, as maintenance expenses induced by the LuFV are now also taken into account. For the 2021/2022 working schedule period, the BNetzA also set the upper limit for total costs at about € 5.5 billion in its decision of July 6, 2020.

Incentive system approved by the BNetzA

The incentive system to minimize disruptions and to increase the performance capability of the rail passenger transport network has been in place since June 2019. With the decision on the TPS 2021 taken in March 2020, BNetzA has now also approved the introduction of the system in rail freight transport with effect from December 13, 2020. In comparison to the previous regulations, significantly higher payments would be levied for delays caused by construction work, among other issues. The incentive system in rail freight transport also provides for differentiation between punctual sensitive and punctual non-sensitive services. The classification must be indicated by the rail freight transport TOCs when reserving train-path sections and has an effect on the level of incentive fees or threshold values. After complaints by two rail freight transport TOCs against the use of the incentive system, in December 2020 the Higher Administrative Court of Münster confirmed by way of interim legal protection that there were no grounds for a provisional suspension of the incentive system.

Noise-based train-path pricing system

The noise-based train-path pricing system (Lärmabhängiges Trassenpreissystem; LaTPS) provided in 2020 for a 7 % surcharge on the regular train-path price for loud freight trains.Freight trains consisting of at least 90 % of cars with quiet brake shoes are exempt from the surcharge. In 2020 we received and approved a total of 72,991 applications for 2019 to promote the noise remediation of existing freight cars. About € 12.7 million in total was paid in bonuses for the applications filed. The program is income-neutral for its entire duration. The LaTPS expired at the end of 2020 after a duration of eight years. The LaTPS bonus for the last year of the program will be paid to applicant TOCs in 2021. Since December 13, 2020, the Rail Noise Protection Act has been implemented, meaning that the operation of freight trains and passenger trains in which one or several noisy freight cars are in use is generally prohibited on the German rail network.

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