Private rail company Connex, a subsidiary of French conglomerate Vivendi, began its third major German route in mid-June. The 566-mile stretch from Rostock to Cologne via Berlin will run once daily in each direction, according to the Deutsche Welle (DW).
Although Connex’s first long-distance route is infrequent and slow, it could challenge the beleaguered Deutsche Bahn. The German railway network is already losing passengers to discount airlines. Late last year, Deutsche Bahn introduced a pricing system that was meant to improve ridership but had an unanticipated effect.
The new pricing system, which was meant to reward passengers who booked trips earlier with discounted rates, effectively increased rates for spontaneous travelers and business and tourist travelers. Their ticket prices increased by as much as 25%.
Meanwhile, cheap air carriers were costing Deutsche Bahn approximately $92 million a year, said a Bahn spokesperson. The Cologne-Hamburg business service lost a quarter of its passengers since discounted airfares became available.
To battle the airlines, Deutsche Bahn modified some of its policies. One immediate change included reducing high cancellation fees on early ticket bookings.
Despite these modifications, Deutsche Bahn still is criticized for being inefficient, expensive and inflexible, said the DW.
In order to attract customers, Connex is taking an opposite approach from Deutsche Bahn by offering significantly lower ticket prices. The private rail company also allows passengers to buy their tickets onboard at no extra charge.