“Unfortunately, this train runs today without an on-board restaurant” – that’s how it sounds when an ICE announces that Deutsche Bahn is not offering any drinks or food on the current journey.
This happens more often on Germany’s long-distance trains. In fact, it feels very often. The FDP member of the Bundestag, Torsten Herbst, asked himself how often. He made a small question to the federal government, the answer to which the “Welt am Sonntag” reported.
Herbst asked the Ministry of Transport what proportion of all the kilometers traveled by Deutsche Bahn long-distance trains from 2016 to mid-2020 with the on-board bistro closed or with limited use. Herbst also wanted to know how much money Deutsche Bahn had made with its catering business during this time.
Harmless questions, that’s how it works. However, with his request, Herbst apparently came across a state secret.
Ministry of Transport speaks of “constitutionally protected trade and business secrets”
Because Enak Ferlemann, State Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, refused any answer, according to “Welt”. The reason is that the information that Herbst asked “affects the constitutionally protected trade and business secrets of the companies concerned” and “also affects the fiscal interests of the federal government”.
Information on Herbst’s questions would “significantly impair the railway and could result in significant competitive disadvantages”.
Ferlemann goes even further. According to “Welt”, he writes that the federal government “classified the requested information as confidential”. A level of secrecy that is mainly used in matters of internal security or sensitive internal government communications.
Herbst expressed his incomprehension to the “Welt” about the procedure of the Ministry of Transport: ““ To classify information about functional on-board restaurants of the railway as a kind of state secrets is just grotesque. One gets the impression that Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer has to protect his state-owned company in order to protect it from negative headlines. “