Bahn: The chief inspector is leaving, new board members are coming

Berthold Huber

Berthold Huber changes to the infrastructure department. Photo: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa

© dpa-infocom GmbH

New faces on the Bahn board and a surprising resignation – the supervisory board meeting at the group on Thursday was eventful.

Troubled days at the German train: First the group’s supervisory board approved the reorganization of the executive board on Thursday, then chief controller Michael Odenwald surprisingly announced his departure.

“After ten years of work on the board, it’s time for a change,” he said. He wants to leave at the end of July. His contract actually runs until March 2025. The inspectors had previously decided at their meeting to make new appointments to the Bahn executive floor.

According to the decisions of the committee, the previous board member for passenger transport Berthold Huber switch to the infrastructure department from July 1st, as the railway announced. Two new members will fill the vacant position on the board: Huber’s previous passenger transport department will be divided into a regional and a long-distance transport department.

Three women on the eight-person executive board

The previous head of finance at the Deutsche Bahn subsidiary will take care of regional matters in the future DB Fernverkehr, Evelyn Palla. This makes her the third woman on the then eight-person management board. The previous DB long-distance boss Michael Peterson should then take care of long-distance traffic on the board.

“Team DB is – younger and more female than ever before,” said rail boss Richard Lutz in the afternoon. “I am very pleased that the board can get to work immediately.” About the announced departure Odenwalds he said regretfully. «He has rendered outstanding services to Deutsche Bahn over the years. For this he deserves special thanks and great recognition,” said Lutz.

The former State Secretary Odenwald has been chief controller at the railway company since 2018. The lawyer has worked in the Ministry of Transport since 1992 – from 1998 as head of department, from 2010 as head of the central department, and since 2012 as permanent state secretary. In this capacity, he moved to the Deutsche Bahn Supervisory Board in 2012.

“Despite all the current challenges, Deutsche Bahn is a great company that I’ve always been very happy to work for. I wish the Management Board, all managers and especially the employees all the best,” said Odenwald.

His resignation comes a day after Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) declared the general renovation of important routes and better service for the passengers of the state-owned group to be a top priority. The train is more unreliable than it has been for years. A major reason for this are overloaded corridors that are in need of rehabilitation. On Wednesday, Wissing explained together with the CEO Lutz the future construction concept for such routes.

Route network is being completely renovated

From 2024 onwards, the most important corridors are to be completely renovated, two to three of these sections every year. All pending construction work and potential expansions should be completed in one go, so that construction does not have to be carried out along the same routes over and over again over the years. There are still many unanswered questions that Huber, the new board member for infrastructure, will soon have to answer.

The railway and transport union (EVG), among others, spoke out in favor of Huber as the successor to Ronald Pofalla, who left the railways in April. She sees him as a true rail connoisseur and a guarantor for an integrated overall group. Huber should also be responsible for the planned public-interest-oriented company, to which the previous infrastructure subsidiaries of the railways are to be combined from 2024.

Critics such as the railway competitors organized in the Mofair association, on the other hand, had campaigned in view of the planned new company not to fill the infrastructure board department again.