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East Germany Table of Contents

East Germany

Transportation and Communications

The transportation system inherited by East Germany included a good railroad network, a satisfactory system of roads, and an excellent inland waterway system, all damaged to some extent by the war (see fig. 8). During the occupation period, the Soviets confiscated from the railroads a substantial amount of rolling stock and track as reparations. In addition, factories that had produced locomotives were dismantled and taken to the Soviet Unions as complete railroad maintenance shops. After reparations payments ended, the railroad system was slowly rebuilt, and highways and canals were repaired. The political situation in West Berlin and the closing of the east-west border imposed restrictions on all forms of inter-German transportation. Lack of sufficient investment in the 1960s and 1970s hampered maintenance and the acquisition of spare parts for rolling stock and highway vehicles. In 1985 the system as a whole consisted of 14,054 kilometers of railroad tracks, 47,214 kilometers of roads, and 2,319 kilometers of inland waterways.

These were 13,777 kilometers of standard-guage railroad line in 1985; 2,523 kilometers were electrified. As of 1984, about 3,830 kilometers were double tracked. At 13.1 kilometers of track per 100 square kilometers, the network's density approximately equaled that of West Germany. A major goal in railroad improvement during the 1970s and early 1980s was the replacement of steam locomotives by diesel and electric engines. By 1986 electric engines were supplying 38 percent of the locomotive capacity in the country, and plans called for an increase to 60 percent by 1990. Additional focal points in the 1980s were the introduction of microelectronic technology and robots to improve the efficiency of railroad operations. In 1985 freight carried by rail amounted to 347.9 million tons for a total of 58.7 billion ton-kilometers. Passengers carried numbered 623 million, or about 22.5 billion passenger-kilometers.

The best known roads in both Germanies are the autobahns, many of them built during the 1930s and World War II primarily for military purposes. These limited-access highways also became important for private and commercial users and remained so after Germany was partitioned. However, the East German part of the system was sometimes underutilized because of its orientation toward the country's borders. During the 1960s and 1970s, as the economy produced more trucks and buses, the highway system increased in importance. New sections of autobahn completed during the 1970s--Dresden-Leipzig, East Berlin-Rostock, and the western part of the Berlin Ring--added to the overall importance of the highway system and contributed to the growing volume of freight carried by road. In 1982 construction of the autobahn connection on East German territory between Berlin and Hamburg was completed. With West German financial assistance, major projects were also carried out on the major transit artery from Berlin to Helmstedt and additional portions of the Berlin Ring.

By the late 1970s, however, increasing fuel costs forced authorities to give more thought to saving gasoline and diesel fuel, and the government encouraged diversion of freight from the highways to trains and barges. In 1985 freight carried on the highways amounted to 555 million tons. This figure, although well over 1.5 times the amount carried by rail, represented a considerable proportional decline compared with rates in the 1970s. In 1985 the 15.1 billion ton-kilometers for motor vehicles freight was only about a quarter of the 58.7 billion tonkilometers posted by rail freight.

The inland waterway system inherited by East Germany was well developed before World War II. In the mid-1980s, it remained important to the overall transportation network. The Elbe River, navigable from Hamburg through East Germany to Prague, provides the north-south axis of the waterway system; and the series of canals from the Polish border near Eisenhüttenstadt to the interGerman border and beyond provides the east-west axis. Magdeburg, where the two axes meet, is a hub of inland waterway traffic. In the mid-1980s, other major inland waterway ports included Frankfurt am Oder, Dresden, East Berlin, Potsdam, and Halle. The 17.7 million tons of cargo carried in 1985 (2.4 billion tonkilometers ) was a small amount compared with the amounts carried by road and rail. Nevertheless, the waterways remained important, particularly for bulk cargoes. The approximately 1,170 river and canal craft plying the waterways in 1985 had a total capacity of about 608,800 tons.

Until the mid-1950s, East Germany had a negligible shipbuilding capacity, practically no oceangoing vessels, and no seaport facilities worthy of the name (the Baltic ports, which had never been of major importance, were destroyed in the war). After 1957, however, shipbuilding and harbor construction mushroomed as the government invested heavily in those industries, in part because of large and continuing Soviet purchases of seagoing vessels. Reconstruction of the ports of Rostock, Stralsund, and Wismar moved forward. By the 1970s, Rostock, which had received the highest funding priority, ranked fourth among Baltic Sea ports. Further improvements to facilities at Rostock during the 1976-80 Five-Year Plan period, completion of the East Berlin-Rostock autobahn, and electrification of the Berlin-Rostock railroad line increased Rostock's importance to the country's economy. The less important port of Wismar specialized in potash and grain; Stralsund specialized in lumber and bulk goods. In 1985 flag vessels in the East German oceangoing merchant fleet numbered 171, for a total of 1.7 million deadweight tons. Freight turnover in the three Baltic ports in 1985 amounted to about 953,000 tons in Stralsund, 4.5 million tons in Wismar, and 19.7 million tons in Rostock.

The Oder River port of Schwedt is the East German terminus of the Friendship Pipeline, which carries crude oil from the Soviet Union. About 1,301 kilometers of pipeline carry the crude oil from Schwedt to Rostock for transshipment and from Schwedt to the refinery city of Leuna, located about 25 kilometers west of Leipzig. There are also 500 kilometers of pipeline for refined products and 1,500 kilometers for natural gas.

Beginning in 1980, all domestic air traffic (excluding agricultural and industrial operations) in East Germany was suspended in an effort to economize on fuel; Interflug, the state airline, provided only international service on a regular basis. In 1985 the gross amount of cargo carried by civil aviation was 29,700 tons, accounting for 71.6 million ton-kilometers. In 1984 Interflug carried more than 1.5 million passengers (2.5 billion passenger-kilometers). East Berlin-Schönefeld was the country's principal airport; Dresden, Erfurt, Heringsdorf, and Leipzig also handled substantial amounts of traffic.

In the mid-1980s, East Germany possessed a comparatively well-developed communications system. There were about 3.6 million telephones in use, or about 21.8 for every 100 inhabitants, and 16,476 telex stations. In 1976 East Germany began operating a ground radio station at Fürstenwalde for relaying and receiving communications from Soviet satellites as a participant in the international telecommunications organization Intersputnik.

In 1985 there were 6,646,500 licensed radios in the country, or 39.9 for every 100 persons, and 6,078,500 licensed televisions, or 36.5 for every 100 persons. The mass media, including newspapers, radio, and television, were closely supervised by the state. However, East Germans could also receive West German television except in the area around Dresden (in 1983 the East German government began installing a cable television system for the Dresden area that would include West German transmissions, possibly in an effort to overcome the reluctance of East Germans to live there).

Data as of July 1987

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East Germany Table of Contents