Development of business units

Developments in the relevant markets

The developments described below are based on available data, which sometimes has different time horizons, since full information about developments in the first half of 2021 was not available as at the time of writing.

German passenger transport market

  • The slump in German passenger transport due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic initially continued in the first quarter of 2021. As the year progressed, there were signs of a gradual recovery. However, the start-up of demand varied greatly across the individual market segments of German passenger transport.
  • Motorized individual transport declined double-digit in percentage terms in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period in the previous year, but is gradually approaching the pre-crisis level, mainly due to heavy local use. Rising fuel prices due to new CO₂ pricing remain of minor importance for the time being.
  • At the beginning of 2021, the decline in domestic German air transport continued significantly. The gradual recovery in the middle of the year with very significant growth rates follows on from the very weak base in the previous year with operations almost completely discontinued from mid-March 2020.

Rail passenger transport

  • In the first quarter of 2021, rail passenger transport experienced a significant decline in volume sold (–58.5%) compared to the corresponding period in the previous year, as Covid-19-related restrictions did not come into effect until March in the first quarter of 2020. DB volume sold fell by 61% in the same period.
  • The restrictions in the second quarter of 2020 and the gradual renewed buildup of volume sold in the second quarter of 2021, with significant growth compared to the previous year, resulted in an increase of 36% in volume sold of DB Group rail passenger transport in the second quarter.
  • Regional rail passenger transport suffered heavy losses in the first quarter (–53%) due to the lack of private and commuter journeys. DB Regional had a similarly significant decline in performance (–56.8%) in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in the previous year.
  • Compared with the second quarter of 2020, DB Regional recorded growth of 22.8% in the second quarter of 2021.
  • Despite recovery in the first quarter of 2021, long-distance rail passenger transport remained significantly below the level of the corresponding quarter of the previous year due to significantly lower demand for private and business travel (–65.7% for the sector; –65.1% for DB Long-Distance).
  • Compared with the second quarter of 2020, volume sold increased sharply by 52.2% for DB Long-Distance in the second quarter of 2021.
  • FlixTrain gradually resumed operations at the end of May 2021.

Public road passenger transport

  • Public road passenger transport suffered significant performance losses (–27.9%) to scheduled transport in the first quarter of 2021.
  • Due to the publicly ordered and largely continued basic services, local bus transport saw a weaker decline in the first quarter of 2021 (–21%); DB Regional Bus posted a comparatively moderate decline in performance (–16.9%) in the first quarter of 2021 and significant growth of about 32% in the second quarter.
  • Long-distance bus services had almost completely ceased operations between the beginning of the year and May 2021. Since the end of May 2021, market leader FlixBus has been re-expanding its offering with a limited network, with BlaBlaCarʼs bus services following in mid-June 2021.

German freight transport market

After two weaker months at the beginning of 2021, performance development since March 2021 has gained significant momentum compared to the corresponding month of the previous year, which was burdened by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, the second quarter of 2021 was also characterized by high growth rates, at times in double-­digits, across all modes of transport.

  • Despite the continued noticeable impact of the Covid-19
    pandemic on the economy, recovery is once again having an increasingly positive impact on transport demand, for example from the increase in trading activities. Production and incoming orders, for example in the steel and auto­motive industry, are pointing toward a significant upward trend, although the automotive sector is also subject to renewed pressure due to the lack of semiconductors. On the other hand, the mineral oil business was weak, showing negative early effects, among other things, due to the introduction of the CO₂ tax at the beginning of the year and the ending of the VAT reduction at the end of 2020.
  • In addition to the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, one-off effects also had an impact on performance development. The blockage of the Suez canal and its consequences for the hinterland transport of European ports, as well as restrictions on the freight transport line in the Middle Rhine Valley after a rockfall, limited the volume of services.
  • Despite rising demand, the transport market continues to be characterized by high competition and price pressure on the part of the freight forwarders.
  • In inland waterway transport, volume sold in the first quarter of 2021 was still just below the previous year’s level, which was already low. While coal, container and grain transport in particular increased, a decline was recorded in the oil products, steel and chemicals freight groups in particular.

Rail freight transport

According to present publications by the Federal Statistical Office, the volume sold of freight railways increased by 6.4% by April 2021 compared to the same period in the previous year. Taking into account a further expansion of the reporting scope in rail freight transport statistics at the beginning of 2021, growth was recorded, particularly in combined transport and transport in the steel, automotive, agricultural/forestry, wood goods and stone/earth sectors. There were declines, particularly in the transport of mineral oil products.

Taking into account the developments of DB companies and the volume produced of rail freight transport in subsequent months, it can be assumed for the first half of 2021 that the performance increase already demonstrated by April has increased significantly once again.

  • The steel, iron ore, scrap, coal, automotive, chemical and combined transport sectors recorded a slump in performance at DB companies in the corresponding period of 2020. However, it was precisely these segments that made a significant increase in performance in the first half of 2021.
  • The corresponding level of the previous year was also significantly exceeded for transporting wood/wood goods and stone/earth. The development of mineral oil transport services was weak due to market conditions.
  • Non-Group railways, according to our own calculations, were also able to significantly increase their performance and showed an overall development picture comparable to DB companies up to April 2021. Losses were mainly attributable to mineral oil and coal transport.

European rail freight transport market

Volume sold in European rail freight transport (EU 27, Switzerland, Norway and the United Kingdom), also developed significantly positively in the first months of 2021 compared to the corresponding period in the previous year. The reasons for this are the recovery in industrial production and trade, as well as baseline effects after the significant declines due to the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in the severely affected automotive and iron, coal and steel sectors. Combined transport is also developing very dynamically again.

The recovery in international trade is noticeable primarily in growth on the European corridors to the North Sea ports of Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg, the southern ports and the Eurasian axis.

  • Rail freight volume sold in the United Kingdom developed positively in the first few months of 2021. However, the picture differed depending on the goods sector. There were significant declines in coal and mineral oil transports as well as in international transport services. In contrast, metal and building materials transport developed positively. Volume sold at DB Cargo UK increased sharply in the first half of 2021.
  • In Poland, rail freight volume sold by May 2021 had increased by about 8% compared to the same period in the previous year. The reason for the increase in performance is the economic recovery following the sharp declines caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Industrial sectors, which had previously recorded the largest declines, developed particularly positively, such as the steel-intensive automotive and mechanical engineering industries. As a result, transport of iron ore and metal also increased significantly. Due to the further increase in transport connecting to China, combined transport continues to see above-average growth, rising by about 10% in the first quarter of 2021. DB Cargo Polska grew significantly above the market average.
  • In France, the volume sold in the rail freight transport market also developed positively in the first few months of 2021. This is due to the recovery of the economy following the Covid-19 pandemic and baseline effects resulting from the strikes at the beginning of 2020. Positive development of volume sold was also seen in Euro Cargo Rail (ECR), which experienced growth well into the double-­digit percentage range.

Road freight transport

After a weak start to the year, since March 2021, truck transport has also shown a significant recovery, supported primarily by increasing cross-border transport and persistently positive effects from the consumer goods and construction sectors, as well as e-commerce.

Stimuli from other sectors also increased again, but were still weak in some cases. Among other things, due to the sharp rise in fuel prices compared to the previous year and the increasing competition, especially from Central and Eastern Europe, there is still strong national and international competition and price pressure. The issue of driver shortages continues to be very important for the industry.

  • According to our calculations, volume sold was about 6% above the corresponding previous year’s level through May 2021.
  • This development was also reflected in toll statistics from the Federal Office of Freight Transport through May 2021. The performance on the road network, which is subject to tolls, increased by 5.6%, after falling by almost 6% in the corresponding period in 2020. After the exceptional year 2020, the development of vehicles registered abroad was once again above average compared to trucks from Germany, and it achieved double-digit growth.
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