2017 Integrated Report – Departure into a new era

Nature conservation

Responsibility for the plant and animal world

Railway lines as well as other operating facilities, buildings and land held by DB Group often provide a unique habitat for protected species. Whenever our work has an impact on nature, we develop environmentally sound solutions. When building new lines, expanding existing lines or when planning operating facilities, we take the interests of nature conservation into account in the planning phase. If it is not possible to avoid interfering with the natural environment, we compensate accordingly. In order to protect birds and small animals against electrocution, we are working with conservation associations and authorities to revise the directive on the protection of birds on catenaries.

VDE 8 – green axis between Berlin and Munich

The new Berlin – Munich line is also DB Group’s largest environmental and nature conservation project. From the start of the project, the responsible environmental analysis and planning sought to maintain the habitats of animals and plants No. 24 as much as possible. Since the start of construction, we have invested about € 200 million in environmental and nature conservation No. 96. In the construction phase, we were already continuously monitoring the groundwater, noise protection for residents, allowing for removed earth and rocks for restoration without long transport routes, and relocating protected animals. Widely spaced viaducts reduce the intrusion on the landscape to a minimum. The Saale Elster viaduct, about 8.6 km long, was created using the beam head feeder process and so occupies almost no construction area in the floodplain, and in addition scheduled work was interrupted for four months during the bird breeding season.

About 4,000 hectares of recultivated landscape, 600,000 newly planted trees and hundreds of nest boxes, caves and habitats for birds, bats and lizards were achieved to complete the route. At the Unstruttal bridge, sheep graze for the care of the orchid meadows No. 24. In newly created tributaries, habitats are created for amphibians; on the grasslands near Erlangen, wild horses No. 21 have found a new home. Restored river courses of the Main and other rivers and flood channels to absorb floodwater No. 96 provide a long-term ecological contribution to maintaining the landscape.

DB areas for bees

Since last year, we have been offering a number of DB areas to private beekeepers to keep bee colonies No. 10. So far, more than 1,100 beekeepers have applied. Altogether, 670 sites have already been made available to them.

IT systems for the detection of contact points

We use geographic information systems (GIS), which store data about train lines and surrounding land and all digitally available information on protected areas in Germany. This enables us to quickly identify the points of contact between nature and DB Groupʼs train lines and rights of way. These findings are important for our planning. There are different restrictions and conditions in each protected area, which are described in protected area ordinances. These are stored in our system and are taken into account when planning construction and maintenance work.

Additional information

Mitigation and compensation measures

We take nature conservation into account early on in the planning process for the construction, expansion or maintenance of rail infrastructure. Our aim is to avoid interfering with nature and the landscape as much as possible. If adverse effects nevertheless occur, we try to compensate for the loss or replace it. We document all relevant data No. 59 on these compensation obligations in the Web-based, specialist nature protection and compensation information system (Fachinformationssystem Naturschutz und Kompensation; FINK). This enables us to comply with the re­­­­porting requirements set forth by the Federal Railway Authority (Eisenbahn-Bundesamt; EBA) in accordance with the Federal Nature Conservation Act (Bundesnaturschutzgesetz). In the year under review, we recorded 3,094 compensation projects in the system, with a total of almost 18,475 measures, including some 4,649 measures on species protection. Along with the newly established annual compensation measures, data are also added during the year on measures undertaken in previous years.

Vegetation control as a means of ensuring safe railway operations

We generally apply manual methods to control vegetation. Herbicides have been used in close coordination with the responsible authorities only where no herbicide-free procedures are available. Currently, herbicides are only applied in the immediate vicinity of the tracks. We have described this procedure in our guidelines on integrated plant protection. For track systems, stations, pathways and public areas, we utilize herbicide-free methods. The use and quantity of herbicides is dependent on weather con­­­­­ditions and vegetation growth. The resulting variations led to an absolute quantity of 67 t of herbicides being used in the year under review. The amount applied is equal to 1.20 kg/km of track. At a track length of about 60,500 km, this means that about 93% of the tracks (previous year: 93%) were treated with the substances flazasulfuron, flumioxazin and glyphosate in the year under review. These substances have been approved by the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (Bundesamt für Verbraucherschutz und Lebensmittelsicherheit; BVL) especially for use in the vicinity of tracks.

The EU Commission has extended the approval of glyphosate to the end of 2022. By that time, another decision will have to be made as to whether this herbicide can continue to be used.

In order to make vegetation maintenance along train-paths as environmentally compatible as possible, we have commissioned a study on environmental vegetation maintenance on train lines. The aim of the study is to identify, describe and group typical habitats around slopes, embankments and intersections along train lines in Germany. In addition to this, as part of a Federal research project, German Environmental Aid (Deutsche Umwelthilfe e. V.), together with DB Netze Energy and other operators of electrical networks, is investigating the possibilities of habitat-linked vegetation maintenance under energy supply lines. The aim of this study is to determine how these habitats can be maintained or further developed.

Protecting birds from catenary systems

We set up new overhead catenary systems so that birds NO. 33 are protected against electrocution. This is achieved in part by using longer insulators. In the year under review, we again documented and evaluated short-circuit events in the existing network. This showed that about 89% of the roughly 3,700 short-circuit events are related to birds. About 8% are attributable to small mammals. We are working on a plan to significantly reduce the number of short-circuit events by birds. In a pilot project in the existing network, we have installed small-animal deflectors to determine whether it makes sense to set up such equipment at the main points of disturbance.

Water consumption slightly higher again

Water consumption refers to the water taken from the public supply. Water consumption in 2017 increased slightly compared to the previous year, primarily due to increased water consumption in local transport in Germany and Europe.

DB Cargo Germany only. Excluding DB Regional Bus. DB Schenker excluding contract logistics warehouse in North America without accounting control.

Resource-efficient vehicle cleaning

Most of the washing facilities for DB Regional and DB Long-Distance rolling stock are equipped with a system for recycling the used water. DB Regional washes its trains in 52 cleaning facilities throughout Germany, of which 30 have been replaced by enclosed new buildings so far.

As buses are cleaned with weaker substances or without cleaners, the water is treated organically in some washing facilities NO. 94. By using the water several times, fresh water use is reduced by up to 80%.

Further expansion of our environmental management systems

Our environmental targets are supported by a Group-wide environmental management system. We are guided by DIN ISO 14001, the requirements of which are the cornerstone of our Group regulations. An independent institute confirmed that this is being compliantly implemented in our Group regulations. The Group Environmental unit is responsible for complying with and further developing Group environmental management standards.

A total of 72% of the environmentally relevant Group companies are committed to a compliant environmental management system under DIN ISO 14001. We intend to increase this percentage even further in the future.

The share of “DB Group companies with certified environmental management systems” further documents the implementation of certified environmental management in compliance with guidelines in our Group companies. 

Share of DB Group companies with certified environmental management systems in accordance with ISO 14001 as of Nov 30 (%)




In Germany



In Europe (excluding Germany)



Worldwide (excluding Europe and Germany)



DB Group



The “environmentally relevant companies” have formed the basis for determining the percentage of certified companies since 2016.

No significant fines or other penalties for environmental offenses were levied against DB Group companies in the year under review. 

Destination nature

The destination nature NO. 37 (Fahrtziel Natur) partnership, supported by the German Federal Agency for the Environment and Protection of Nature (Naturschutzbund Deutschland e.V.; NABU) the German Ecological Motor Club (VCD) and DB Group, was initially the namesake for an IC2 that was christened the “Saxon Switzerland National Park.” As winner of the fifth Destination Nature award, the Bavarian Forest also participated, including with large wall paintings on the remodeling of the DB Lounge in Nuremberg.

Destination Nature