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Flooding Causes $1.5B in Damages to German Railway

Thursday, August 5, 2021

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After experiencing severe flooding at the end of last month, national German railway operator Deutsche Bahn has estimated that the network suffered over 1 billion euros in damages.

The company reported that in wake of the flooding, tracks of some of its main lines near Dresden were washed away, train stations were flooded, and several crucial bridges collapsed, including one on a high-speed rail line connecting northern and southern Germany.

“According to our cautious first estimates, we believe we have suffered revenue losses and damages of 1.025 billion euro,” said Deutsche Bahn CEO Hartmut Mehdorn while reporting a preliminary estimate, stressing that it would not be the final damage sum.

In addition to immense railway devastation, Germany’s flooding was also reported to have taken the lives of at least 180 people, while an additional 31 deaths were reported in Belgium, taking the overall death toll to 211.

“Never before has our infrastructure been destroyed to this extent in one go,” said Volker Hentschel, a board member at the company’s DB Netz infrastructure division, estimating that the damages cost around 1.3 billion euros ($1.5 billion).

Farms were also reported to have taken a toll in wake of the flood, with German Consumer Protection and Agricultural Minister Renate Künast releasing an estimate of 267 million euros in damages.

Looking at railway infrastructure specifics, more than 400 kilometers of DB tracks are currently unusable, according to the railway network. In total, 94 bridges and 200 train stations were also badly damaged. With regards to service outages, early estimates suggest that there will be an 90 million euro drop in revenue from both passenger and freight services.

“If 20 of the 35 bridges on the Ahr (Rhein-Ahr-Bahn) have been destroyed, then you can already imagine the huge task that lies ahead of us,” said Federal Minister of Transport Andreas Scheuer. “We have been working from the start of the disaster to have a damage pattern on roads, rails, waterways and mobile communications.”

Repair Plans

According to reports, as part of a four-point “immediate aid” program, the federal government has agreed to provide DB with 650 million euros to rebuild its network and repair damaged train stations and 141 million euros to farmers.

The government was also noted to have reached an agreement with DB and the Transnet union that the company would not lay off any employees as a result of the flooding.

More than half the money provided for repairs had already been earmarked for transportation infrastructure development projects in the eastern states that were formerly part of East Germany.

The railway network company reported that its first reconstruction priorities would be lines in the Leipzig-Dresden-Chemnitz triangle. A line connecting Dresden with Prague would also be rebuilt as quickly as possible.

However, Mehdorn estimates that it would take at least two and a half years before sections of the destroyed tracks and train stations could be put back into service.

In regard to ongoing projects prior to July’s flooding, Mehdorn said that there were currently no plans to cancel any proposed Deutsche Bahn projects—including the planned Transrapid train line between Dortmund and Düsseldorf. New priorities, however, could lead to delays.

Flood, Climate Research

In a January study conducted by Stanford University, researchers found that the United States has spent nearly $199 billion in flood damages over the last three decades.

However, researchers went a step further than just comprising a spending report and further indicated that the flooding experienced from 1988 to 2017 as a result of intensifying precipitation—consistent with predictions of global warming—was responsible for one-third ($75 billion) of the total financial costs.

The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is reported to have helped resolve a long-standing debate about the role of climate change in the rising costs of flooding and provides new insight into the financial costs of global warming overall.

To settle the debate of how much climate change has actually contributed to the rising financial costs of flooding—the most common, widespread, and costly natural hazards—researchers looked at socioeconomic factors like population growth, housing development and increasing property values, in addition to correlations between precipitation and flood damages.

To start, researchers looked at higher resolution climate and socioeconomic data where they applied advanced methods from economics to quantify the relationship between historical precipitation variations and historical flooding costs. The research team also looked at methods from statistics and climate science to evaluate the impact of changes in precipitation on total flooding costs.

As a result, the analyses showed that not only did climate change contribute substantially to the growing cost of flooding in the U.S., but that if the nation were to exceed the levels of global warming agreed upon in the United Nations Paris Agreement, the effects would only grow and continue to worsen.

To further isolate changing precipitation as the primary root of increased national flooding, researchers developed an economic model based on observed precipitation and monthly reports of flood damage. In their model, researchers controlled other factors that might affect flooding costs like increases in home values, and then calculated the change in extreme precipitation in each state over the study period. As a result, the team was then able to use the model to determine what the economic damages would have been if those changes in extreme precipitation had not occurred.

Through this framework, the team found that changes in precipitation accounted for 36% of the actual flooding costs that occurred in the U.S. from 1988 to 2017 and was primarily driven by increases in extreme precipitation.

Moving forward, the research team hopes that their approach can be used in observing other types of natural hazards and climate impacts against different sectors of the economy and to other regions of the globe to help understand the costs and benefits of climate adaptation and mitigation actions.


Tagged categories: EU; Europe; Funding; Government; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Rail; Railcars; Rehabilitation/Repair

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