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Deutsche Bahn AG

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The Deutsche Bahn AG (German Railway Corporation), also known as DB and DBAG, is Germany's largest train service operator, providing passenger and freight service on Federally owned tracks.


The Deutsche Reichsbahngesellschaft[?] (DRG) [German Imperial Railway Company] was founded around 1920 by uniting the Staats- and Lšnderbahnen [State and Territorial Railways] which existed in and were operated by small, formerly sovereign territories and kingdoms like Bavaria, Saxony, and Prussia, among others.

The DRG existed until 1945. After World War II, Germany (and therefore the DRG) was divided into 4 zones: American, British, French and Soviet. The first three combined to form the Federal Republic of Germany (aka. West Germany) and the Russian zone eventually became the German Democratic Republic (aka. East Germany)). At first, train service was controlled by each of the respective zones, wherever possible.

From 1949, authority over railway operations was transferred to the new governments. The DRG's successors were named Deutsche Bundesbahn[?] (DB) [German Federal Railways] in the West, while the East kept the the old name minus the "Gesellschaft" [Society], naming its railways Deutsche Reichsbahn[?] (DR) [German Imperial Railways] (even though the Empire had ceased to exist.)

Unlike the DRG, which was a corporation ("Gesellschaft" = "Society", meaning "Company"), both the DB and the DR were Federal institutions, directly controlled by their respective Transportation Ministries. Railway service between East and West was restricted; there were around five well controlled and secure checkpoints between the BRD and DDR, and about the same number between DDR and West Berlin. Four transit routes existed between the BRD and West Berlin; citizens of West Berlin and West Germany could use these without too much hassle from the East German authorities.

In 1989, the wall fell. Soon afterwards, train frequency increased on the existing railway links between East and West, and closed lines crossing the former border were re-opened in order to help Germans explore their newly found freedom.

On October 3, 1990, Germany was reunified; however, this was not the case with the railways. Administrative and organisational problems led to the decision to reform the organisation of Germany's railways. This so-called Bahnreform [Railways Reform] came into effect in 1994, when the Deutsche Bundesbahn and the Deutsche Reichsbahn joined to form the Deutsche Bahn AG (DBAG) [German Railways Inc.], (usually referred to as Deutsche Bahn (DB) [German Railways]).

Current corporate structure

DBAG is still fully owned by the Federal Government, but has its own mangement and is allowed (and expected) to operate as a for-profit business.

It was expected that the privatisation and opening of German tracks to other railway companies would promote competition and efficency, and eventually lead to higher standards and lower costs. To all outward appearances, however, DBAG seems to continue as a large holding company that owns and manages various semi-independent subsidiaries:

owns and maintains all track
responsible for station buildings including platforms, ticket sales and general service
operates long-distance trains
operates short and medium distance trains as well as commuter services
BRG (Bahnreinigungsgesellschaft [Railway cleaning company])
provides cleaning services
BSG (Bahnschutzgesellschaft [Railway protection company])
employs safety patrol personnel for railway stations and trains, mostly at night
manages all real estate
operates (the now disappearing) restaurant cars and restaurants and snack stands inside stations

See also Transportation in Germany, German railway history[?]

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