GERMANY: CRUMBLING INFRASTRUCTURE

A country’s infrastructure functions like the nervous system of a body; it depends on it like lifeblood. We take you through the state of Germany’s infrastructure.

Words: Amogh Purohit

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Germany, a country that has made its mark with its engineering, is known to excel at a variety of other things as well. Take for instance the flawless autobahns, the 1,300 breweries and 5,000 different brands of brews, 25,000 magnificent castles, really fast cars, and a meta sense of humour.

Known to be the birthplace of some of the fastest cars in the world, Germany has an excellent road and transportation infrastructure, making enough room to gallop. In 2000, the total length of paved highways was 650,891 km, including 11,400 km of expressways. That coupled with heavy horsepower, you never have to worry about getting from A to B again. One would think that having fast cars, over 45 million of them, would cause frequent traffic jams. But then again, the lack of speed limits on highways takes care of that.

According to the 2011-2012 Global Competitiveness Report, Germany’s extensive infrastructure was ranked second in the world and was given special praise for its capacity for highly efficient transportation of goods and passengers.

This ranking spoke about the quality of roads and airports, the rail and port infrastructure, and its outstanding communications and energy infrastructure.

Moving away from land, Germany’s logistics’ infrastructure includes not only the port of Hamburg, Europe’s second largest container port, but also Bremerhaven, Europe’s largest car port that handles vehicular traffic, and Duisburg, home of Europe’s largest inland port. Together with over 250 additional inland ports, Germany’s port infrastructure facilitates the efficient delivery of goods in Europe’s largest market.

And if you are thinking of flying there, Germany has a dense network of airports, of which 23 offer international service. Frankfurt is ranked the world’s seventh and ninth largest airport in terms of cargo and passenger volume, respectively. The country’s highway system has one of the greatest kilometre density levels in Europe and the 37,900 km of railway tracks are nearly enough to circle the globe.

A CRH Harmony bullet inspection train leaves a train station for a railway inspection assignment, in Guiyang

And it does that at whopping speeds of up to 300 km/h. This high-speed rail network is the fourth largest in the world.

Germany also has one of the largest telecommunications network, served by a modern telephone system and 46.5 million main lines connected by fibre-optic cable, coaxial cable, microwave radio relay, and a domestic satellite system. The state-owned giant, Deutsche Telekom (DT) is one of the leaders of the European and global telecommunications sector.

Growth in the areas of multimedia, mobile communications, and the Internet has also been spectacular. Germany is one of the fastest growing markets for mobile phone equipment, and Germans owned 15.318 million mobile phones 1999, way before selfies became popular. And the government is considering further investment into the area because it still compares poorly with the US by the ratio of personal computers and Internet hosts per 1,000 people.

But despite its shiny façade, the German economy is crumbling at its core. With the country’s infrastructure becoming obsolete and companies preferring to invest abroad, the government advisor argues that German prosperity is faltering.

The once-soaring bridges are sagging. Some railroad switching equipment, once top-of-the-line, have not been updated since a long time. Well-engineered canal locks are succumbing to silt and neglect.

Even the road and railroad networks, one of the densest and most developed in the world are facing wear and tear and regular breakdowns. Even maintaining the status quo will require nearly doubling current spending levels, according to a recent report issued by a government commission.

The problems started at the time of German reunification in 1990, experts say. The government poured vast amounts of money into former East Germany, where some roads and railways had barely been maintained. Now much of the eastern countryside has sparkling new highways, but not many people to drive on them.

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Growth in the areas of multimedia, mobile communications, and the Internet has also been spectacular. Germany is one of the fastest growing markets for mobile phone equipment, and Germans owned 15.318 million mobile phones 1999, way before selfies became popular.

Germany’s population and industry have moved westward. Infrastructure in the richer, western half of Germany, meanwhile, has been neglected. Now, nearly half of Germany’s municipal bridges and one-fifth of its highways are considered to be in poor condition, according to federal data and a study by the German Institute for Urban Affairs.

A McKinsey & Co. study in 2013 estimated that Germany needs to invest $69 billion in its roads to meet expected demand in the coming years. Major steps are being taken by the government to put this into implementation and plan out a way to revive and reengineer the country’s infrastructure.

Clearly, Germany is a country that takes its infrastructural development and humour very seriously.

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Amogh is a good friend and bad singer, an aspiring adult and a writer. He shuttles between classy and desi very frequently. He can be reached at
amogh1632@hotmail.com