The German rail operator said sabotage led to massive service disruptions on Saturday, a sign of how vulnerable critical infrastructure in Europe’s biggest economy is to attack.
Deutsche Bahn said it was forced to halt traffic in northern Germany for about three hours on Saturday morning “due to sabotage of cables vital to rail service”.
Thousands of passengers were stranded when their trains to cities like Berlin, Hamburg and Hanover were canceled, and long queues formed at rail information desks and ticket offices.
Transport Minister Volker Wissing said the network was hit by a “malicious and targeted action”. A key cable was severed “intentionally and calculated” in two places, he said.
The chaos affected both long-distance and regional DB traffic throughout the northern region. Traffic between Berlin, Hanover and the western industrial area of North Rhine-Westphalia was completely suspended, and international routes such as Berlin-Amsterdam were also affected.
The sabotage was aimed at DB’s on-board radio network, known as GSM-R or “Global System for Mobile Communications – Rail”. It is used for communication between the trains and the control centers that regulate rail traffic and is “essential for the smooth running of the service,” said a DB spokeswoman for dpa.
Deutsche Bahn said that as a result of the sabotage, the GSM-R system collapsed in four northern states – Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein and the two city-states of Hamburg and Bremen. It added that German security services were investigating the incident.
Ever since massive leaks were discovered at Nord Stream 1 and 2, the two gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea linking Russia with Germany, concerns have been raised about the safety of Germany’s critical infrastructure.
Swedish authorities said this week that the leaks were caused by detonations at the pipelines and that preliminary investigations have “raised suspicions of gross sabotage”.
The blasts raised fears that other infrastructure could be attacked. European countries have increased military patrols to protect pipelines and other installations in the North Sea. Oil and gas operators in Norwegian and Danish waters have reported sightings of a number of unidentified drones near platforms.
The damage to the cables was repaired in the course of the morning, Deutsche Bahn tweeted, but passengers should expect ongoing disruptions. “Unfortunately, you still have to expect train cancellations. . . and delays,” the company tweeted.
In order to get from Berlin to North Rhine-Westphalian cities like Cologne, one could try a detour via Frankfurt or Erfurt, DB said. Many took up the suggestion, resulting in overcrowded Berlin-Frankfurt trains with dozens of passengers camping out on the carriage floors.
Deutsche Bahn said passengers who wanted to postpone their journey due to the disruption to services could use tickets booked for a week after the problems were resolved.
https://www.ft.com/content/8d897c26-e9cc-4a16-82da-4ef393e583c3 Transport minister says German rail services have been hit by ‘deliberate’ sabotage