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Germany To Replace Rail Chief

September 14, 1999

BERLIN (AP) _ Transport Minister Franz Muentefering has fired the head of the German Railway, Johannes Ludewig, the ministry said Tuesday.

Ludewig has been under growing criticism for his management of the nation’s vast rail system, which has suffered financial setbacks and a loss of prestige in the wake of a series of accidents.

Ludewig is to be replaced Jan. 1 with Hartmut Mehdorn, head of the board of directors for Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG and a longtime Airbus executive.

Muenterfering, who is leaving the ministry to take over daily management of the Social Democratic Party, approved the changes recommended by the railway’s board of directors.

The railway, Deutsche Bahn, also plans to replace the head of the head of the tourism subsidiary, Axel Nawrocki, with Christoph Franz, currently head of company development at the railway.

Morale at the railway has been spiraling since June 1998 crash of a high-speed train that killed 101 people. Railway workers complained about Ludewig’s handling of the aftermath of the crash, blamed on a faulty wheel, saying he did not make clear that it was an equipment problem.

A series of other accidents following the disaster further tarnished the railway’s image.

Sales and profits also were down last year, largely due to the impact of the crash. Deutsche Bahn’s sales were flat 1998, while profits dropped to 334 million marks, or $191 million, from 533 million marks in 1997.

The change in management was welcomed by railway unions and consumer groups.

``There was no real forward-looking strategy under Ludewig,″ said Holger Jansen, spokesman for the Pro Bahn passenger advocacy group. He added, however, that some of Ludewig’s difficulties were related to the railway’s privatization process after decades under state control.

Union chief Norbert Hansen said he hoped the shakeup changed would bring more creativity to management.

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