€260 billion plan Roads the Winner in Transport Investment Boost

The German government is presenting plans to spend €260 billion on hundreds of transport infrastructure projects by 2030, a sharp increase over the previous 15 years. Funding for new roads will make up a significant share.
Germany's roads have been suffering from chronic underinvestment.

The German government on Tuesday will present to parliament plans to invest around €260 billion ($290 billion) in transport infrastructure by 2030, a huge increase over its previous 15-year transport development plan.

Transport minister Alexander Dobrindt will submit a list of more than 700 road, rail and waterway projects classified as priorities, Handelsblatt has learned. The list forms part of the government’s new 15-year investment plan, in which the most urgent projects are selected from thousands submitted by the 16 regional states.

The government’s last 15-year plan, published in 2003, called for around €10 billion in average annual spending, significantly less than the new plans.

The renewed investment is likely to please bodies such as the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which have long been calling on austere Germany to loosen the purse strings on public spending to spur growth. German transport infrastructure has been suffering from underinvestment. Figures from 2013 revealed that 40 percent of federal roads were in need of repair.

Repair work is being allocated the most cash. Of the €260 billion total, more than €140 billion will be spent on maintaining existing roads, railways and waterways.

The draft of the plan, which Handelsblatt has obtained, lists 84 infrastructure projects as meriting a “+,” meaning they’re deemed to be top priorities. Ministry officials and external experts have scrutinized the myriad projects submitted and conducted cost-benefit analyses to pick the most important ones.

Projects that don’t make the list won’t be considered for funding for at least the next 15 years, explaining why members of parliament turn into vociferous lobbyists on behalf of their regions every time the list is up for renewal.

Repair work is being allocated the most cash. Of the €260 billion total, more than €140 billion will be spent on maintaining existing roads, railways and waterways, with €66 billion of this going on roads. Between 2001 and 2013, only €27 billion was invested in the same area.

Just under €50 billion will flow into new road construction and expansion. This compares with €52 billion earmarked for road building in the old 15-year plan, of which €34 billion was actually spent by 2013.

A total of €34 billion has been earmarked for railway track construction and €5 billion for waterways.

The list has some surprising omissions including urgently needed expansion work on the A44 motorway, which runs from the Belgian border to Kassel in central Germany. The A46 in western Germany and the A1, which runs from Saarbrücken on the French border to the Baltic Sea in the northeast, have also been overlooked. ADAC, the German motoring association, has identified the A1 as a particularly urgent priority to reduce congestion.

There are other apparent oversights in the government’s transport plan. It includes some projects that have comparatively low cost-benefit scores such as a new lock for the Elbe Lateral Canal, a key waterway between northern and southern Germany, as well as locks for the Moselle river.

There are also some questionable choices among railway projects. Some €6 billion has been earmarked for rail projects in Bavaria with very low cost-benefit rankings.

After a period of public consultation, the plan will serve as a basis for writing concrete projects into law. Lawmakers will fight tooth and nail to make sure projects in their regions get funding.

Before any new projects can begin, Mr. Dobrindt must finalize delivery of those already in the pipeline, worth almost €16 billion.


Daniel Delhaes reports on politics, transport and airlines from Handelsblatt's Berlin office. To contact the author: [email protected]