Business customers travel already today climate-neutral
About Jan-Wolf Baake: “At Deutsche Bahn, we’re all part of a big family.”
Following a long and successful career at Deutsche Bahn, Jan-Wolf Baake now leads DB’s corporate customer sales department. With his team, he assists DB’s approximately 32.000 business clients with planning business trips that are both affordable and efficient. Baake has previously gained experience in the company at DB Regio in North Rhine-Westphalia and in DB’s long-distance transport division where he worked on price strategy and price development. Baake is a true “Bahner,” a railroad enthusiast who knows all aspects of DB’s railroad universe.
A tourism manager by degree, he enjoys traveling by train himself and even enjoyed “comfort status” before starting his DB career. In his opinion, a train is a “nice mode of transport, with which you can manage your time well.” Of course, there are also situations where a train isn’t the most convenient means of travel – when traveling extremely long distances, for example. Nevertheless, he generally prefers taking the train even in his private life. He also likes to use the train for work and even does without a company car.
He adds that the “Mythos Bahn” – the “railroad myth” – really exists and feels that the staff is like one big family. There is a pronounced atmosphere of togetherness. This has been especially apparent during times of crisis like the Corona pandemic. At Deutsche Bahn, people stick together and lend each other a helping hand. Baake says it’s nice to work in a company like that. That feeling of “togetherness” is what DB tries to convey to its customers, too.
DB’s Corona measures: “The risk of infection on trains is no higher than in normal, everyday life.”
Frimeso: For the safety of its customers and employees, Deutsche Bahn has implemented extensive hygiene measures. What are the critical aspects of those measures?
Baake: There are multiple vital aspects: We have increased security during travels, reduced infection paths, and promoted hygiene measures.
Our measures concern the station and the vehicles. In addition to ample dispensers for disinfectant, there are markings for distancing and regular announcements about the obligation to wear a mask. We have hired additional security personnel to pay extra attention to compliance with those measures.
We clean our trains regularly. In addition to that, cleaning them on the road during long-distance journeys has intensified. Surfaces that are frequently touched are cleaned every two hours. There are over 4.300 employees tasked with cleaning trains and stations. At on-board bistros, only prepackaged takeaway food will be offered until further notice. Specific seats will be kept unoccupied as far as possible.
Our app DB Navigator enables contactless booking, payment, and check-in. This way, passengers don’t even have to present their ticket anymore.
However, Deutsche Bahn also counts on passengers to take responsibility for themselves. It’s only possible if we work together. At the moment, everything works very well, which, of course, is aided by fewer long-distance journeys during the crisis. In local transport, challenges are still present at peak times. But social distancing now works well even in those instances.
As far as the risk of infection, in general, is concerned, it’s very low in local transport, despite the fuller trains, thanks to regular ventilation. In long-distance traffic, security has been increased due to excellent ventilation systems. According to a study of Charité and DB, our train attendants are at lower risk of infection when wearing a mask than our employees elsewhere. The risk of infection on trains is no higher than in normal, everyday life.
The key advantages of traveling by train: Using your traveling time, flexibility, and local transport ticket availability in cities
Frimeso: Aside from aspects concerning climate protection that I want to ask you about in detail later, what are the general advantages of traveling by train?
Baake: Traveling time becomes useable time. Customers can do whatever they want during their journey. Customers have time to themselves. For many, trips are divided into three parts. One is usually spent on food and reading the paper. Next, there is a part where people will take a breather or catnap for a while. Finally, they will spend a part of their journey preparing for or following up on a business meeting.
This advantage is especially evident for routes with a traveling time of three to four hours. Those are traveling times for which we compete for most with airplanes, which would take maybe an hour for the same distance. When traveling by plane, I have to get in line, board, and sit down for a relatively short time before getting off again. Big airports like the one in Munich or Berlin-Brandenburg aren’t in the city. A central train station is.
Also, we have ensured wide availability of local transport fares within our DB-Navigator app. This way, you can also add a ticket for local transport to your booking.
WiFi on trains continues to improve, as well. Admittedly, it’s not possible for everyone to stream a movie at the same time. On our high-speed trains, the latest technology is still hitting its limits. But it’s enough to do some work.
Another advantage is the frequency, the high speed, and the associated great flexibility when traveling. If my business appointment takes longer than planned, it’s often possible to take the next train no more than an hour later. On the Hamburg-Berlin route, we now operate a half-hourly service. Taking the train is almost like commuting with the S-Bahn (local transport).
Frimeso: bahn.business has over 30.000 business clients: How do you divide them and who are your customers?
Baake: Generally, we are in constant exchange with our customers, regardless of scale, i.e., even with the smallest companies. For instance, we offer educational events and webinars about our programs and topics such as our security concepts. The medium-sized segment is served by our account and business service. Our key accounts have a dedicated contact at our company. These customers usually operate their own travel management. This is where Deutsche Bahn caters to travel management on the one hand and the actual traveler on the other. We also work with strategic customers with whom we want to tackle issues collaboratively. A separate department takes care of corporate bodies, public administration, the federal government, and the Bundesländer – regional states. Our biggest customers are the federal government and the German Armed Forces.
Using this division, we can best meet all needs.
Focusing not only on conventional business trips: The future is holistic
Frimeso: bahn.business arbeitet mit den Unternehmen vor allem auch bei Fragen der allgemeinen Berufsmobilität und des Pendelns zusammen. In unserem Vorgespräch sprachen Sie bildlich in diesem Zusammenhang von einem ganzen Bauchladen, mit dem Sie in die Unternehmen gehen.
The trend is shifting toward a holistic approach to corporate mobility. So it’s not just about conventional business trips, but also about how employees return to the company. We discuss several issues with companies, all the way to questions of location and the associated requirements for special connections. We also discuss sustainability issues, where service companies in particular often still create a negative carbon footprint. As far as technical solutions are concerned, we offer the mobility budget Bonvoyo as an app. Such negotiations are always extensive and exciting. We often also cooperate with business partners to ensure a holistic approach.
Commuting: DB Regio’s relationship with private providers – “We are partners!”
Frimeso: How could you describe the relationship between the Deutsche Bahn subsidiary DB Regio and other regional providers? Concerning the rail network, how do you structure this relationship, and to what extent do you align your timetables with those of your competitors for transfer times?
Baake: Local transport is ordered by the responsible authorities through tendering. Those tenders describe how frequently a train should run on a particular route. DB Regio is a contender in a competitive process. We win and lose in this process for many different reasons. However, following the procedure, we are always a partner focusing on the customer’s needs. Because only if the network system works, we’ll achieve the common goal of getting people out of their cars and onto rails. That is only possible, if we provide a good enough offer to people, that they will decide to use our services. You can see this in our interconnected tariffs. It’s absolutely irrelevant which company people travel with.
The “last mile” is a challenge: Including other means of transport when booking business trips.
Frimeso: One of the most significant issues with conventional business trips seems to be that while it’s possible to get from Munich to Frankfurt quickly if you need to go further into the countryside, it will often take longer. What is Deutsche Bahn doing to solve this strategic problem?
Baake: We are aware that the “last mile” is one of our challenges. This also applies to traveling by plane, however. The key competitor here is traveling by car, which can be used to drive to the destination. That is why we try to include other means of travel like bikes, car-sharing or scooters so that people can book them easily using our systems.
DB’s important role in climate protection: Climate-neutral business travelers!
Frimeso: The train is considered to be the most environmentally friendly way to travel. According to their own statements, Deutsche Bahn has committed itself to the ambitious goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050. You’ve already achieved a lot in this regard: comparing 2006 to 2019, you reduced emissions by 35%. How did you accomplish this, and what are other milestones in your strategy for sustainability?
Baake: We are Germany’s top electricity consumer. That is why we can’t switch all usage to ecological power overnight. There just isn’t enough supply. We are cooperating with energy suppliers systematically and we are also working on generating electricity ourselves. The path to an ever-higher share of renewable energy is unstoppable.
Apart from procurement, challenges are ensuring that it’s really ecological power we’re using. Aside from that, there are routes where locomotives are still diesel-powered today. This is where we are looking to find alternative means of propulsion, such as hydrogen-powered vehicles.
We also provide companies with proof of the sustainability of their travel and work with them to assess their carbon footprint in the context of occupational mobility.
Because the need for sustainability is particularly high among companies, all our business customer tickets are 100% tied to eco-power. The electricity used by business customers is covered by the feed-in of renewable energy. For diesel routes, we purchase additional compensatory electricity to cover business travels. Business passengers’ travels are climate-neutral with Deutsche Bahn. Businesses can count on that!
Frimeso: To what extent does training your employees play a role in climate-friendly operations? How big of a role does the utilization of the network play?
Baake: We do a lot when it comes to sustainability. It starts with recyclable coffee cups and ends with minimizing the usage of resources. We are the number one user of electricity in Germany. We can’t just ask ourselves where electricity comes from, but we have to see to avoid its usage. This applies to our buildings, but also to our vehicles. For example, we train our vehicle drivers in energy-efficient driving. On the Frankfurt-Cologne route, this can save the amount of power used by a multi-family house in a year.
Utilization also plays a role. We are focusing on this, just as we are working on the optimized frequency and an efficient railway network.
The future of Deutsche Bahn: DB will continue to rise
Frimeso: What will be DB’s share in the future transport mix of cars, planes, and trains?
Baake: Deutsche Bahn will play an even more significant part in the mixed means of transportation. In addition to the topic of sustainability, issues of individualization and being mobile quicker are relevant. In the short term, we’ll see a significant increase in short-distance cross-border routes. Some people still think that to get to nearby destinations abroad, it’s better to use the plane, even though it’s quick and easy to get from Düsseldorf to Amsterdam by train without noticing the border.
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