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Germany has one of the world's largest and most sophisticated transportation systems. This reflects the intensely mobile nature of the German population, who are among the world's most active drivers, tourists, and travelers. It also reflects Germany's location in the center of Europe and the many far-reaching industrial and commercial relationships developed over centuries. Because of the density of the network, many towns, but especially such major cities as Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, Munich, and Hamburg, function as transportation and communications centers, lying either at the intersections of major east-west and north-south routes or on transshipment points of ship, barge, road, and railroad traffic. With Europe again uniting from the Atlantic to the Urals, Germany's position as a transportation and communications hub for the continent will become ever more important.

To cope with the additional demands caused by German and European unification, the German government has designated seventeen major transport routes to be either completed or rebuilt as soon as possible during the last decade of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first century. The first transport plan for newly united Germany was adopted in 1993 and will cost DM453 billion by the year 2012. More than half of the investment will be dedicated to rail and waterway travel, not road travel (see fig. 11).

Trucks have been the most important instrument for freight transport throughout Germany for decades. They carried 203 billion ton-kilometers of freight in 1992, with railroads second (83 billion ton-kilometers) and inland shipping (55 billion ton-kilometers) third. But the railroad system is also perceived as very important, and it will be extensively modernized. The Deutsche Bahn railroad company, formed in January 1994 from the East German and West German railroad systems and to be gradually privatized, has a network of over 40,000 kilometers at standard 1.435 meter gauge, of which 16,000 kilometers are electrified. Perhaps 8,000 kilometers of German railroad tracks will be eliminated through rationalization. To speed traffic, new high-speed railroad tracks have been designed to permit special trains to move at up to 250 kilometers per hour between such principal cities as Hamburg and Munich, with more tracks to follow. The purpose of these new trains is to relieve some of the pressure on airports by making surface transportation fast and attractive for distances of fewer than 500 kilometers.

Germany has one of the densest road networks in the world and the largest after the United States. There were a total of 226,000 kilometers of roads in 1992, including more than 11,000 kilometers of four-or-more-lane superhighways. Nonetheless, especially in crowded areas and for the long routes toward southern Europe, many trucks are carried piggyback on trains to increase speed and to reduce pollution. The former East German system required several years of rebuilding after unification to enable it to serve the infrastructural requirements of modern business travel.

Germany had 45 million motor vehicles in 1992, with 39 million automobiles. Automobiles accounted for some 685 billion passenger-kilometers in 1990, a number that could be expected to rise rapidly by the mid-1990s as the eastern German population begins to acquire automobiles at a rate similar to that of their compatriots in the west.

The German inland shipping system is one of the world's most highly developed, especially because of the large flat areas in northern and western Germany. Duisburg, located in northwestern Germany on the Rhine, is the largest inland port in the world. Germany has 6,900 kilometers of navigable inland waterways, including such principal canals as the Kiel Canal, the Mittelland Canal, and the Dortmund-Ems Canal. The Rhine-Main-Danube Canal, completed in 1992, joins the Main and the Danube rivers in northern Bavaria and for the first time permits river transport between the North Sea and the Black Sea (see fig. 12).

The main German seaports are those of the old Hanseatic League, with the best-known being Hamburg, Bremen-Bremerhaven, Wilhelmshaven, Lübeck, and Rostock. To compensate for their greater distance from the Atlantic Ocean (in comparison with Rotterdam), German ports have invested heavily in technology, equipment, and training that permit fast and economical loading and unloading.

Germany also has a large system of inland and international air travel. Lufthansa, the national airline, has an extensive domestic and global route system. In 1992 approximately 87.5 million passengers were registered at Germany's airports, and 1.5 million tons of air freight were carried from those airports. The largest international airport is Frankfurt-Rhein Main, located near Frankfurt am Main and one of the world's most important centers for both passengers and air freight. Other important airports are those at Düsseldorf, Munich, the three serving Berlin (Berlin-Tegel, Berlin-Schönefeld, and Berlin-Tempelhof), Hamburg, Stuttgart, and Cologne-Bonn. Berlin-Schönefeld, located to the south of Berlin, will be expanded to reestablish it as a major international air center.


The German postal services are among the oldest in Europe. In 1990 Germany celebrated 500 years of organized mail service. At the same time, the German government broke up the Bundespost monopoly over all forms of communications and created three new structures to handle the services formerly handled by the Bundespost.

The largest of the new services is the Postdienst, with 390,000 employees. It is Germany's largest service enterprise, handling over 15 billion pieces of mail every year. The second largest is Telekom, the telephone/telex service, with a total of 260,000 employees. Telekom is intended to keep the German telecommunications system competitive with the new systems being developed in the United States and Asia. Germany has 35 million telephones, but service in eastern Germany took a long time to come up to western German standards. The third is the Postbank, with 24,000 employees, which manages the postal savings bank system in which about 30 million Germans have accounts (see Banking and Its Role in the Economy, this ch.).

Data as of August 1995

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