Scoreboard at Berlin Central Station
Photo: Sebastian Kahnert / dpa
Who does not know them, the indications on the display board at the train station that the train you are waiting for is delayed again.
Now that winter is approaching and train travelers have to hang out in the cold, many people will find such delays particularly uncomfortable.
Or even as particularly annoying when you look at the background of many delays.
Malfunctions in the so-called signal boxes are an important cause of delays in rail operations.
Those more than 2500 systems that, among other things, adjust points and signal train drivers whether and how fast they are allowed to drive.
Interlocking disruptions have so far triggered around 146,000 train delays in the current year, as can be seen from the answers of the Federal Ministry of Transport to inquiries from the Green MPs Annalena Baerbock and Oliver Krischer.
In the previous year there were around 248,000 delays, in 2018 even around 277,000.
Overall, between one and two percent of all Deutsche Bahn trains have been delayed due to interlocking faults in the past three years, according to the paper available to SPIEGEL.
The main reasons are the increasing utilization of the rail network and failures due to ongoing heat waves in the summers of 2018 and 2019.
The ministry also cites component wear as a reason - which is hardly surprising.
After all, at the end of 2019, 642 of the total of 2557 interlockings were still mechanical (see photo).
According to MDR, the systems that are operated by hand come partly from the imperial era.
Mechanical signal box (archive image)
Photo: Peter Förster, Peter_Förster / dpa
The railway has reduced the number of ancient signal boxes in recent years.
But according to critics, the pace of transformation has so far been leisurely.
Now the state company wants to take action.
As part of the “Digital Rail Germany” program, investments are being made in digital signal box technology, writes the Ministry of Transport.
This will significantly increase the reliability of rail operations.
Icon: The mirror