VDEI Vice President Dr. Jürgen Murach
VDEI President Prof. Dr. Birgit Milius with VDEI Vice President Dr.Ing. Joachim Warlitz (right)
VDEI Parliamentary Evening

German Association VDEI: 75 years of concentrated railway engineering expertise

The beginning was hearty: The founding of the Association of German Railway Engineers VDEI on December 10, 1949 took place in the station pub of Hamm station in Westphalia. The railway engineers in the GDR had their engineering home in the “Chamber of Technology of the GDR”. With the collapse of the East German state, the VDEI Dresden district was founded on April 20, 1990 in Plauen and then the VDEI-DDR on May 14, 1990 in Dresden. On October 12, 1990, this association merged with the previously West German VDEI to form a joint association.

Today, the VDEI is the professional association for engineers in Germany who work in the field of rail-guided transport – an organisation for around 4,000 members of all ages and professional hierarchies from different areas such as business, authorities, engineering offices or universities. The VDEI is organised in 15 districts and 13 specialist committees from four specialist areas, in working groups and networks. There is the Young Railway Network working group for engineers under 35 and a women’s network. Since 2010, the VDEI Academy for Railway Systems has been providing professional training and further education for engineers across the entire spectrum of rail-guided transport with a wide range of specialist conferences, seminars and workshops.

The aim of the VDEI is to promote members in professional policy matters and further training, to strengthen and expand rail transport for sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility. To this end, there are continuous contacts with politics, administration, business, research and education. The VDEI is the national certification office for European railway engineers (EURAIL-ING) and the organiser of the “iaf International Exhibition of Track Technology” and the “iaf Congress on Railway Construction”. It publishes the monthly trade magazine “EI – The Railway Engineer” (Eisenbahn-Ingenieur) and other specialist publications. The VDEI is a member of the European umbrella organization UEEIV and the Central Association of Engineering Associations e.V. (ZBI), which as an umbrella organisation with over 40,000 members is one of the largest engineering associations in Germany.


Railway without railway engineers?

Despite the high demand for skilled workers in the industry, railway professorships in Germany have recently not been filled or only with difficulty. But can there be a transport turnaround necessary for climate protection without transport engineers? This topic is of concern to the VDEI for current reasons. In an article for the specialist journal “Der Eisenbahn-Ingenieur”, VDEI President Prof. Dr. Birgit Milius, herself head of the Department of Railway Operations and Infrastructure at the Technical University (TU) Berlin, reported: “In recent years, numerous professorships have only been able to be retained, if at all, after great commitment from the entire railway industry and politics. The hurdles to refilling were great: They range from efforts not to start the filling process at all, to changing the denomination of the professorship, to rejecting the proposal on the appointment list. The current case is the discontinuation of the refill process at the TU Braunschweig. After the first process failed, the second process has now also been stopped by the University Council of the TU Braunschweig.”

In order to discuss this problem publicly, the VDEI organised a first parliamentary evening in Berlin on April 9, 2024. The audience included university employees, students, members of the Bundestag, as well as representatives of Deutsche Bahn AG, the railway industry and associations. The Chancellor of the TU Berlin, Lars Oeverdieck, explained why the university subject of railway engineering often has difficulty finding the necessary support. Important criteria for assessing a department include the number of students, but also how much government third-party funding the department can attract and how much space and equipment it needs. Measured by such aspects, railway engineering is considered a “small” subject at German universities and has a hard time asserting itself. In a panel discussion, the Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Transport, Michael Theurer, also commented on the obvious contradiction that arises from the social demands for a transport turnaround and the low funding of universities. Theurer said: “There must be more exciting paths that go beyond the prevailing templates.”

There are currently only a few courses in Germany that allow students to focus on core topics of railway engineering. In Germany, there are 34 railway professorships at a total of 15 university and technical college locations. They are the backbone of the training of new engineers in this field. The VDEI will continue the dialogue. Studying railway engineering is highly relevant to practice and interdisciplinarity, and graduates have the best chances on the job market. These are good reasons to attract more people to study railways and thus increase the importance of the subject at universities.

Hermann Schmidtendorf, VDEI News

Fotos from left to right:

VDEI Vice President Dr. Jürgen Murach on a study trip with an ÖBB Regiojet. Credits Hermann Schmidtendorf

VDEI President Prof. Dr. Birgit Milius with VDEI Vice President Dr.Ing. Joachim Warlitz (right) and the Mayor of Chemnitz Sven Schulze at a VDEI event in his city. Credits Hermann Schmidtendorf

Discussion during the VDEI Parliamentary Evening: 1st from left Lars Oeverdieck, 2nd from left Prof. Milius, 5th from left Michael Theurer. Credits Dima Eisenberger/VDEI