Reality catches up with Germany’s reputation for having the Best Roads in the World.
Also, a look at the glamorous island of Sylt, the German St Tropez. Condor Ferries chief exec in shock resignation. Drive-in ‘sex boxes’ spread to Vienna. Serbia to repair flood damaged roads by next month. The A66 Frankfurt-Fulda is opened fully this weekend.
GERMAN ECONOMY THREATENED BY CREAKING ROAD NETWORK
Germany’s road woes make it into the mainstream. But is there light at the end of the tunnels?
It’s official: ‘Germany’s growth is threatened by a creaking transport network’ says the Financial Times today.
Finally, there’s no getting away from something that’s been evident for some time. The A7 Hannover-Hamburg, A8 Karlsruhe-Pforzheim, A3 Frankfurt, Wurzburg, Nuremberg and Regensburg, A6 Heilbronn – the list goes on – are among the most regularly congested roads in Europe.
That’s just on a normal day; don’t even think about driving in Germany during peak holiday periods.
Readers could be forgiven for thinking our traffic service @DriveEurope, reporting delays of more than 45mins, seven days a week, across Western Europe, was actually just devoted to Germany.
One of the problems is bridges. Half of them are in need of renovation according to public service broadcaster Deutsche Welle last year (plus twenty percent of autobahns and forty percent of federal roads).
Car drivers find it difficult enough to pick their way through the complex road system around the major cities in the West. Try it in a truck when every other way is barred due to load restrictions.
The other big issue is how to pay for all the work that needs doing. The IMF says Germany needs to spend another 0.5% of GDP on road maintenance over the next four years, according to the FT, around €14bn in total.
But with the country already struggling to balance the books that is just not going to happen. The only bright idea so far is to charge foreign drivers but, at best, that will only scratch the surface.
Another assault on the German reputation for prudence and efficiency is how long road repairs take, and how much they cost. The A3 at Frankfurt Offenbach might have been repaired overnight after a WW2 bomb exploded last month but fixes that fast are a rare exception.
The EU’s Audit Committee found last year that road works in Germany were more likely to suffer delays and cost overruns than even those in Poland, Spain and Greece.
While it’s been clear for some time that Germany’s decades-long boast about having the best roads in the world was a myth, there are signs – as that realisation passes into the mainstream – that the worst may be passed.
The massive project on-going since 2009 to widen the country’s major arteries is starting to bear fruit. The works at Berkhof, A7 Hannover-Hamburg, should finish at the end of the month. Fingers crossed, the partially realigned A8 Karlsruhe-Pforzheim opens at the end of the year.
Last Saturday, the end of widening works on the A9 at Triptis mean the road between Berlin and Munich is now six lanes all the way (even if drivers will be tortured by works on the stretch from Ingolstadt for some time yet).
Best of all, from our point of view, the notorious Emstunnel on the A31 at Leer is finally entering the last stages of a difficult renovation while the gap in the A66 between Frankfurt and the A7 at Fulda is finally closed this weekend when the new Neuhoftunnel opens.
German roads have their passionate defenders, and rightly so. With nearly 8,000 miles of motorway stretching to almost every corner of the country, it is still one of the word’s most comprehensive.
To paraphrase Hilaire Belloc, when they work they are very, very good. But when they (most often, currently) don’t, they are horrid.
roundup: CONDOR FERRIES. The very hands-on, customer–focused Condor Ferries chief exec James Fulford has resigned after just eighteen months in post. A challenging first half of the year for the Channel Islands operator – including a run of bad weather, a strike and accident damage its freight ferry – was rounded off recently with a new operating contract and state-of-the-art new ship to be delivered next spring. The firm is yet to comment beyond saying he was ‘moving on to new challenges’ says the BBC. AUSTRIA. The success of drive-in brothels – ‘sex boxes’ – in Zurich is inspiring the Vienna authorities to try something similar. SERBIA. All roads damaged in the recent floods will be back in operation by 1 October the transport ministry announced today. GERMANY. From Saturday, the 90km A66 autobahn heading north east from Frankfurt to Fulda will be complete following the completion of the 6km tunnel at Neuhof. Until now, drivers heading southbound to Frankfurt on the A7 would take the faster A5 from Bad Hersfeld but it might make sense now to stay on until Fulda.