‘Sabotage’ to blame for major German rail failure

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Traffic was completely interrupted for about three hours

Ina FASSBENDER

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“Sabotage” targeting communications infrastructure caused major disruption to Germany’s rail network on Saturday, operator Deutsche Bahn said, while the government said no motive had yet been identified.

“Cable sabotage” was behind the outage, which led to a three-hour suspension of train services across northern Germany, a company spokesman told AFP.

German Transport Minister Volker Wissing said essential cables “had been deliberately and intentionally cut” in two places.

“It is clear that this was a targeted and deliberate action,” he added, adding that the motive was not “yet known”.

He called the incident “clearly premeditated”.

Specifically, the GSM-R, a radio network used for communication on the railway, was damaged, Der Spiegel reported, citing security sources.

Any damage to the cable would require “some knowledge” of the rail system, the Bild daily said, adding that federal police were investigating.

Traffic was completely interrupted for about three hours due to “a failure of the digital train radio system”, before being restored, according to Deutsche Bahn.

Services were affected between Berlin and parts of the west and north of the country, including Schleswig-Holstein, the cities of Hamburg and Bremen, as well as Lower Saxony and parts of North Rhine-Westphalia .

The Berlin-Amsterdam route was also suspended and thousands of travelers found themselves stranded in stations in the affected regions.

Cancellations and delays were still expected on Saturday despite train services being restored, Deutsche Bahn warned.

The attack comes just over two weeks after sabotage attacks on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines linking Russia and Germany.

The German government has also strengthened the protection of its critical infrastructures.

Deutsche Bahn is regularly criticized for delays in its services.

At the beginning of September, the company announced that it would carry out massive improvement works, including the replacement of 137,000 concrete sleepers.

An independent report pointed to “production flaws” in the sleepers.

The derailment of a train in the Bavarian Alps in early June, which killed five people and injured more than 40, highlighted the poor state of German rail infrastructure, linked to years of underinvestment.

The government has in recent months encouraged car-loving Germans to take the train by offering cheap tickets.

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