Emergency brake or emergency room

The capital Senate has taken the final decision on the tender for the Berlin S-Bahn. This sets the course for the dismantling and privatisation of rail transport in the Metropolitan Region. Although the co-ruling Left party is opposed to the project, it nevertheless participates because of the Dear Coalition peace. In order to alleviate her abdominal pain, she has negotiated a few consolation patches for the workers, who nevertheless face unequal treatment and division. This is another reason why resistance to the project continues to gain momentum. And the comrades take cover.

Once British conditions prevail in Berlin’s public transport, all excuses are of no use to the Left party. The fact that the capital Socialists only participated in the destruction of the S-Bahn with “headaches”, “stomach cramps” and “bad conscience” does not pass as a reason for reduced culpability. For a supposedly left-wing ticking Party, Co-government can and must come to an end at a point when the price of a political project becomes too high for the ordinary and weaker people in the society they claim to represent. If, on the other hand, holding on to power is more important to her, then she no longer ticks quite correctly.

From the looks of it, the party Die Linke has made its choice – against the common good, for maintaining the alliance with the SPD and the Greens. And once again the ordinary citizen – in the guise of customers, taxpayers and employees – will have to pay the bill of a new privatization adventure. With the tender of two thirds of the network approved by the Senate last week, the days of the S-Bahn are counted in state and from a single source. According to the plans of the leading Transport Senator Regina Günther (Greens), several companies in the Metropolitan Region’s rail transport could operate side by side and against each other in the foreseeable future.


The decision marks the “end of the S-Bahn crisis of a decade ago with all its aftermath-and it is the Start of a new era,” she said in a press release. “This gives people a reliable, attractive offer for efficient and environmentally friendly mobility in Berlin and Brandenburg. “The fact that a politician of all people with the party Book of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, whose department includes the areas of Environment and climate protection, is pushing for the dismemberment of an S-Bahn company under one roof for the purpose of an” effective competition”, is already a piece of scandal. In order to counter the looming climate collapse, nothing is better suited than a railway infrastructure in public and in the best sense of steering direction – and nothing worse than competitive, profit-oriented investors.

To claim that this results in “reasonable prices with permanently good quality”, as Günther does, contradicts all contrary experiences from home and abroad and is a bad case of window dressing. Recent cases from Saxony, Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia show impressively that wherever commercial providers operate by rail, lower quality and Chaos in the form of delays and train cancellations always travel with them. Of course: all this is also known from Deutsche Bahn. But precisely because the returns of the wannabe Stock Exchange railway go beyond the interests of its passengers and employees, the recipe cannot be to make the railway an object of return for everyone. Conversely, what is needed is the Comeback of a real state railway in competition with the car and aviation industry. “Green” officials who roll out the red carpet to private investors, however, do not need it.

Principle Of Hope

As little as left-wing politicians who do not try to prevent this and do not resort to the last and strongest means of pressure: the break of the coalition. “We want an S-Bahn operation from a single source and accordingly refuse to dismantle the S-Bahn,” the capital left had decided at its National Party Congress on 23 November. Following this, the state executive board reaffirmed its position on 22 June 2016. In may, a week before the final Senate vote on the “fastest possible” Start of the procurement procedure: “The decision to award the S-Bahn services on several Lots for different routes to split and separately for operation and maintenance must be continued for a wrong decision.”

However, it is precisely this “wrong decision” that almost certainly destroys the hope for the best solution from the left’s point of view. This would consist in the fact that DB AG will continue to operate as the sole operator in the future. Since 2017, one of its subsidiaries – S-Bahn Berlin GmbH – has been doing this on the basis of transitional contracts until the end of 2027 and spring 2028, respectively. If others compete in the Europe-wide tender for the north-south and light rail subnets announced for the summer, Deutsche Bahn will only be responsible for the Ringbahn in seven years ' time.

Fair play against DB AG

In the meantime, the Left party is in favour of the fact that the theoretical possibility of operating from a single source still exists. In the negotiations, it had worked together with the SPD to ensure that interested parties could apply for the four single tickets (driving operation, vehicle delivery/maintenance on two subnets each) as well as offer the entire package. According to the situation, this would only be shouldered by the DB. However, the transport Senate made arrangements to establish “equal opportunities” and to eliminate the advantages of the State group in terms of personnel and infrastructure.

At the beginning of May, the states of Berlin and Brandenburg, in whose area the S-Bahn network extends to ten percent, had agreed to “develop at least one new optional workshop location per subnetwork”. The reason for this is the refusal of DB to leave its locations to the competition for joint use. In the sense of" real " competition, therefore, new capacities are stamped out of the ground, which actually do not need it. Originally, this was even supposed to be “obligatory”, against which Brandenburg and the Berlin left blocked themselves. The capital, however, wants to set a bad example and pull up a factory in the North that nobody knows whether it will ever be needed – all in the name of “Fairness”. In the end, if, contrary to expectations, Deutsche Bahn prevails, it would have to close one of its locations in return.

Confusion of who is responsible

This would be even more manageable damage for customers and employees. More trouble threatens, should in the so-called combination procedure several competitors prevail in the fight for the single lot. Then, together with the S-Bahn Berlin GmbH and the Berlin transport company (BVG) responsible for underground transport, up to six railway companies could soon be romping around in Berlin’s local rail transport. One or two newcomers then procure and maintain over 2,000 S-Bahn cars. One or two others handle the operation on the subnets Nod-Süd and Stadtbahn – and all together, according to Günther, “S-Bahn traffic with a much tighter cycle density and significantly less susceptibility to interference”.

That’s what anyone wants to believe. Much more likely is a huge confusion of responsibilities. Carl Waßmuth by the Association refers the public domain in the citizens hand (Give) in this context, on the example of London. There, the privatisation of the Metro had “ground to a halt on a technical level, with billions of pounds of losses for British taxpayers,” he remarked to the reflection pages on Thursday. In the case of a Berlin S-Bahn in several hands, the operators would be connected to each other via a variety of interfaces “or separated from each other”. At the start of operation and at night, the cars would have to be deployed and manoeuvred across various “network boundaries”. In addition, there is a threat of a “great confusion in timetables and prices”. And if it hake in the operation, point each Finger at the other and in the end the dispute ends up in court.

Action S-Bahn-Chaos

The green transport senator, on the other hand, is as blue-eyed as possible: “so we allow competition in order to be able to offer a better public transport service at the end of the day,” she told the Berliner Morgenpost a month ago. This also means that there is no question who your heart is not beating for: the DB. In keeping with this, Günther paints the devil on the wall at every opportunity; the S-Bahn Chaos of 2009 could be repeated in the responsibility of the state-owned company. As a reminder: at that time, the S-Bahn had been driven to full wear and tear in terms of technical and human resources in the wake of the planned DB IPO. After the intervention of the Federal Railway Office, three quarters of the vehicles had to be withdrawn from circulation due to maintenance delays and defects. For years, the traffic was running only in emergency mode, with shortened trains and huge timetable gaps. Nevertheless, the S-Bahn Berlin GmbH continued to transfer lavish profits and user fees for tracks and stations to the parent company in the following years and introduced similar subsidies by the states of Berlin and Brandenburg.

All of this led to a rethink in Berlin politics in the sense that S-Bahn traffic had to be advertised. By getting as many operators on board as possible, the top dog could also be moved to more quality, reliability and cheaper prices in the “free play of market forces”. So far the theory, which from the point of view of its advocates, however, already received a harsh damper in 2015. At the end of the first round of bidding around the Ringbahn, DB was the only bidder left. Apparently, the competition could not keep up, which is why they now want to help it with greater accommodating on the jumps.

Shadow households and scrap cars

This includes, above all, the establishment of a vehicle pool in a state-owned company. The step-by-step procurement of up to 2,160 wagons is to be carried out by private third parties as well as later their maintenance, whereby this is to take place within the framework of a 30-year Public-Private Partnership (PPP). Berlin wants to buy the cars and then make them available to the companies responsible for driving operations. According to those responsible, what should compensate for DB’s equipment advantage, critics consider a high-risk Deal to the detriment of taxpayers. Additional costs would be shifted to shadow budgets without parliamentary control and the country would get back a scrappy fleet after 30 years.

Sometimes it is very telling when nothing is said. After the Senate decision of 26 May, nothing was heard from the Berlin left party. Both the National Association and the parliamentary group are holding back an official announcement. For this the District Association Neukölln registered to speak. “The billionaire tender amounts to trampling the S-Bahn. We will continue to defend ourselves against this,” said spokesman Moritz Wittler. The project otherwise threatens to become a “model example of how Profit is made on the backs of the employees and the community”.

Schools for speculators

Once again, it is the Neukölln comrades who are driving the National Party into the Parade during a central political project. Thus, the district association also vehemently opposes the so-called Berlin school construction offensive (BSO), which amounts to a Quasi-privatization of school construction through the inclusion of the state-owned, private-law housing company Howoge. In contrast to the S-Bahn tender, however, this Operation is carried with full conviction by the government socialists and the parliamentary group in the House of Representatives. Why only? A recent report by lawyer Benno Reinhardt has shown that the construction makes it possible for financial investors to access the schools. Does this mean left politics?

A legal examination of the employment policy consequences of a fragmented S-Bahn is of similar concern. The background is an internal coalition dispute in the days before the Senate decision on the question of future social standards in the event of the takeover of S-Bahn employees by new operating companies. Social Senator Elke Breitenbach (left) wanted to make sure that they were not paid less than before. According to a report of the Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg, it was finally recorded by a protocol note to ensure the “maximum protection of workers”. In addition, the Senate communication states: “clear regulations on job security, personnel transfers, wage compliance, the minimum wage and training obligations are stipulated by contract, which benefit both the employees in the vehicle business and the workshop staff.”

Division of the workforce

From the perspective of the Berlin labour lawyer Benedikt Hopmann, this is a rotten promise. As he states in a statement for the Linke District Executive Board Neukölln, the “best solution” for the working people would be “no tender”. It is already foreseeable that the working conditions will “deteriorate”, and it is not even clear whether “the takeover of all workers by the new operator can be secured”. Furthermore, Hopmann considers that the collective agreements won by S-Bahn GmbH over many years would lose their validity “in one fell swoop”, unless the new company was bound to the same tariff standards. The lawyer therefore accuses the Senate of not excluding the" unequal treatment and division " of the S-Bahn staff. And then he states: “a tender opens the doors to privatisation.”

The Left Party acts as a door opener. Not because she would like to do so, but because she would like to continue governing, together with a neoliberal Senator Günther and an SPD, with whom she sold huge public housing stocks to investors in 2004, then still under the name of PDS, and thus prepared the ground for today’s housing crisis. What makes the current events even more bitter: parts of the Social Democrats are also positioning themselves against the call for tenders. This threatens the “destruction” of the S-Bahn, the SPD deputy Sven Heinemann told the “Berliner Zeitung"at the weekend. His group colleague Tino Schopf quoted the paper as saying: “for new cars and a clock compression, there is no need for a procurement procedure of this size with additional interface problems and risks in operational stability.“The combination procedure is a” procurement experiment with an uncertain outcome”.

Wide Resistance

If the risks are so great, why has the project not been stopped - in conjunction with the Left party? Finally, the SPD also wanted to enforce that the applicants orientate themselves on the domestic tariff contracts for the S-Bahn Berlin, in order to thwart a bad position and division of the staff. The fact that this is not legally feasible and that there are litigation risks, as the Senate administration believes, may well be true. Nevertheless, the way out would still be to abandon the overall project. As soon as there are two against one in a Triple Alliance: who then has the better cards? Hardly the Green Party, which received the fewest votes out of the three in the 2016 ballot. Nevertheless, things are going exactly the same, which is why SPD man Schopf does not expect another fundamental discussion: “we cannot allow ourselves to do that. In a tripartite coalition it is normal to find compromises.”

Then only the uprising of the street remains. Railwaymen, trade unionists, Students for Future, Bahn für alle, Gemeingut in BürgerInnenhand, die Neuköllner Linke, die Linksjugend Solid and other initiatives have joined forces in the Alliance “One S-Bahn for all” to thwart the Senate plans. In addition, a large number of associations and organisations have expressed their opposition to the project, including the railway and Transport union (EVG), the German locomotive drivers ' union (GDL), the German trade union confederation (DGB), the trade union ver.di, The Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (Bund), Naturefriends and the passenger associations Pro Bahn and IGEB.

Together they rely on a Mix of different forms of protest. One of these is the submission of individual petitions. In Berlin, it is possible as an individual to make submissions to politics, which must then be dealt with by the Petitions Committee of the House of Representatives. For this purpose, it is sufficient to formulate his request on the corresponding website by mentioning his name and address and to address it to the authority in question. On the GiB web pages you will find sample texts and arguments from which you can use yourself freely.

Ready to vote out?

As an alternative model, the activists propose to award the S-Bahn services directly. That this would be legally feasible is proven by an expert opinion of the scientific service of the Bundestag, on which the parliamentary group Die Linke also refers. According to GiB spokesman Waßmuth, state-owned companies are eligible for a direct award. To this end, the country could set up its own company, as had been done in the energy sector (“Berlin Energie”). A majority stake by Berlin and Brandenburg in the S-Bahn Berlin GmbH would also allow a direct award, as well as an award to the state-owned transport company, the BVG.

With a takeover of the S-Bahn by the state, the Berlin left also flirted, but now mimics the beaten in the field of tension between coalition raison d’être and practical constraints. It would also be a different matter: if the party still wanted to slow things down, it would have to go on the Offensive as quickly as possible, even before the start of the tender, and, if it did not achieve anything by way of negotiation, pull the emergency brake and burst the government alliance. If they do not, the voters will pass their verdict in the autumn of 2021. This could be severe.