2018 Integrated Report – On track towards a better Railway


Nature conservation

IT systems to document protected areas

We use geographic information systems, which store data about train lines and surrounding land and all digitally available information on protected areas in Germany. This enables us to quickly identify the points of contact between nature and DBGroupʼs tracks and rights of way. These findings are important for our planning. There are different restrictions and conditions in each protected area, which are described in protected area ordinances. These are stored in our system and are taken into account when planning construction and maintenance work.

There may be overlaps between conservation areas.

Mitigation and compensation measures

We take nature conservation into account during the construction, expansion or maintenance of rail infrastructure. Our aim is to avoid interfering with nature and the landscape as much as possible. If adverse effects nevertheless occur, we try to compensate for the loss or replace it. We document all data  no. 59 on these compensation obligations in the online specialist nature protection and compensation information system (Fachinformationssystem Naturschutz und Kompensation; FINK). This enables us to comply with the reporting requirements set forth by the EBA in accordance with the Federal Nature Conservation Act (Bundesnaturschutzgesetz). In the year under review, we recorded 3,997 compensation projects in the system, with a total of almost 25,187 measures, including some 7,291 measures on species protection.

Vegetation control as a means of ensuring safe railway operations

We generally apply manual methods to control vegetation. We coordinate closely with the responsible authorities and only use herbicides where no herbicide-free procedures are available, which is currently just in the immediate vicinity of the tracks. We have described this procedure in our guidelines on integrated plant protection. In the year under review, these guidelines had also been incorporated into the Federal Government’s national action plan for the sustainable use of plant protection products.

The use and quantity of herbicides is dependent on weather conditions and vegetation growth. As a result of the extremely dry summer in the year under review, an absolute quantity of 56 t of herbicide was used. The amount of herbicide applied corresponds to 1.0 kg per km of track (pre­vious year: 67 t herbicide; 1.2 kg/km of track). At a track length of about 61,000 km, this means that about 92% of the tracks (previous year: 93%) were treated with the substances flazasulfuron, flumioxazin and glyphosate in the year under review. These substances have been approved by the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (Bundesamt für Verbraucherschutz und Lebensmittelsicherheit; BVL) especially for use in the vicinity of tracks. In November 2017, the EU Commission extended the approval of glyphosate to the end of 2022. As part of a project headed by DB Group, the International Union of Railways (UIC) is examining future alternatives for glyphosate.

We are conducting two studies to help develop eco-friendly vegetation maintenance along our train paths and under energy supply lines in the future: one examining the possibilities for environmental vegetation maintenance along rail lines; and one as part of a Federal research project, involving Deutsche Umwelthilfe e. V. (German environmental aid), DB Netze Energy and other operators of electrical networks, to investigate the possibilities of habitat-linked vegetation maintenance under energy supply lines.

Responsibility for the plant and animal world

Tracks, buildings and land held by DB Group often provide a habitat for protected species. We develop eco-friendly solutions to offset any impact that our work has on the natural world.

Protecting birds from catenary systems

We set up new overhead catenary systems so that birds  no. 33 are protected against electrocution. This is achieved in part by using longer insulators. We documented about 3,300 short-circuit events caused by animals in the year under review. About 93% of them were caused by birds and about 7% by small mammals. Since the year under review, isolators on existing systems have been fitted with bird deterrents as part of the full overhead line inspection, providing birds with greater protection from electrocution. These measures may be the reason short-circuit events have fallen by about 400 in comparison with the previous year. Traction current lines in areas that have a high risk of bird collisions are also being made safe, for example by fitting special bird diverters  no. 140.

Water consumption reduced

Water consumption refers to the water taken from the public supply. Water consumption reduced in the year under review primarily as a result of improved methods of calculating consumption at DB Schenker.

Group-wide environmental management system

Share of DB Group companies with certified environmental management systems in accordance with ISO 14001 as of Nov 30 (%)





DB Group




in Germany 




in Europe (excluding Germany)




worldwide (excluding Europe and Germany)




The “Environmentally relevant companies” have formed the basis for determining 
the percentage of certified companies since 2016.

Our environmental targets are supported by a Group-wide environmental management system  no. 131 that is in accordance with DIN ISO 14001. The system’s compliant integration into our Group regulations has been verified by an independent institute. On this basis, 65% of our 273 environmentally relevant Group companies used an environmental management system in accordance with DIN ISO 14001 in the year under review. The share of environmentally relevant Group companies that use a certified environmental management system is shown by regions. Most of the decline in Germany in the year under review is due to certificates in bus companies expiring. The Group Environmental divisions ensures compliance with and further development of Group-wide environmental management standards. No significant fines or other penalties for environmental offenses were levied against DB Group companies in the year under review.

Destination nature

Since 2001, destination nature  no. 37 (Fahrtziel Natur) has promoted the networking of sustainable tourism and eco-friendly mobility. The Kellerwald-Edersee national park in Hesse is the 23rd destination  nature and wants to give greater support to promote eco-friendly tourism.

Adjusting to the impacts of climate change

As a “critical infrastructure” in Germany, DB Group is particularly af­fect­­ed by the short and long-term impacts of climate change. This was acknowledged in a study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research titled “Klimawandel – Auswirkungen auf die Deutsche Bahn AG” (climate change – impacts on Deutsche Bahn AG). The study concludes that it is mainly the seasonal shift of extreme weather events and their subsequent effects that will pose particular challenges for rail infrastructure and will require measures to be taken systematically to adapt to these changes. In response DB Group is drawing up a five-point strat­­egy and implementing short-term measures to ensure safe rail ope­r­ation and a track infrastructure that can cope with extreme weather events. These measures include preemptively removing trees at risk of breaking from storms and snowfall along the train path, structurally securing slopes that are at risk of slipping, developing track infrastructure as well as command and control technology that are suited to hot and cold weather.

In addition, DB Group is participating in research by the BMVI ex­­pert network on “Adjusting transport and infrastructure to climate change and extreme weather events.” As part of this research involving collaboration with the EBA, DB Group regulations were analyzed to identify areas that need to be adjusted and the first hazard maps for rail lines in Germany were created. These hazard maps support prioritization of measures and risk communication when dealing with potential climate and weather-related environmental risks. At the same time, DB Group is also working with the German Institute for Standardization (Deutsches Institut für Normung; DIN) to encourage greater consideration of climate change in national and international standards.

Further reading