Cologne/Bonn's transport revolution

6th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

It has taken three decades but Cologne/Bonn airport has finally been linked to the region's railway network with 180 daily trains now connecting up to what is a booming low-cost-carrier hub. Sebastian Okada reports on Cologne/Bonn's transport revolution.

The rising popularity of discount air travel could lead to additional rail links

After three decades and construction costs of half a billion euros, Cologne/Bonn airport has finally been linked to the region’s railway lines.

This means no more expensive cab rides and inconvenient bus connections from Cologne’s central train station.

Instead travellers can hop on one of the 180 daily trains which now link up to the booming low-cost-carrier hub of Cologne/Bonn.

“Eight million people are now within an hour’s ride of us,” said airport director Michael Garvens. “We have waited for these links for 30 years.”

Whether high-speed ICE, cheap regional express services, or S-Bahn commuter trains – they all link the airport now with a number of surrounding towns and cities, going as far as Frankfurt and the Ruhr area.

Criticism came however from the nearby towns of Aachen, Siegen and Bonn: Their links with the airport, promised by Deutsche Bahn and the S-Bahn, never materialised. This probably because of the already staggering EUR 530 million construction bill for the airport connections, which was footed mostly by taxpayers.

For people from Aachen, Siegen and Bonn this means they still have to change trains in Cologne; only the Bonn-Beuel area is linked by train to the airport.

For the region’s economy, the impact of the railway connection is considerable, according to a recent study.

Teeming with low-cost airlines like Germanwings, Hapag Lloyd Express and Easyjet, the airport supports some 14,000 jobs directly or indirectly.

*quote1*“We hope this gets another boost when we introduce low-cost flights to the US in May 2005”, says airport director Garvens. Two airlines will then fly to four, as of yet unnamed, American destinations for as little as EUR 200 for a round-trip.

Tortuous as the 30-year wait for the Cologne/Bonn's rail links has been, it is by no means an isolated case in Germany with two of the nation's other leading airport projects having been hit by protracted delays in securing approval for their development and strong local political resistance.

Plans for a new international airport in Berlin as well as extensions to the old one in Frankfurt have been stalled for recent years.

The German capital's planned international airport BBI (Berlin-Brandenburg International), for instance, has seen bureaucratic foot-dragging and civic resistance to an extent that has pushed its likely opening date to 2010 – an astonishing 19 years after planning for the airport began in 1991.

But even 2010 seems to be in doubt these days, as federal courts expect a flood of some 1,500 legal challenges from airport opponents such as local residents and environmentalists.

International companies in Berlin have been furious about the long delays in getting the airport project underway and as a result have started relocating their top executives to more travel-friendlier locations such as Amsterdam and London.

Future growth in German air travel, analysts say, is to be expected mostly at low-cost hubs anyway, like Cologne/Bonn. Last year alone, passenger numbers there surged 43 percent to a record level 7,8 million.
In 2004, airport director Garvens expects that number to grow further, to 8,5 million passengers.

As a result, the rising popularity of discount air travel could lead to Deutsche Bahn moving to create additional rail links, as a company spokesman indicates: “They should go all the way to Mannheim, Mainz, and Wiesbaden.”

July 2004

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject:  Life in Germany, budget airfares, Cologne/Bonn, German airports 

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