After a positive assessment by the Federal Transport Ministry, the bosses of Germany’s largest freight train operators are hoping that the upgrades to the rail network to allow 740-metre trains to operate will be implemented quickly. In its requirements plan, the Transport Ministry in December gave a positive assessment of measures to enable longer freight trains and increased these projects’ priorities. The bosses of DB Cargo, SBB Cargo International, the Havilland Railway, the Port of Hamburg Railway and Lokomotion Rail reckon that there is now great potential for shifting freight onto the railways. The rail freight bosses called on politicians to increase the pace of upgrading the German network. At the moment, the current European standard-length train of 740 metres cannot be operated on many routes in Germany. Often because of only minor network limitations, a mere 11 percent of trains in Germany can operate with this standard length. The Transport Ministry has put the cost of upgrades to remove network bottlenecks at 405 million euros, with a very high cost-benefit ratio of 4.8 percent.
DB Cargo: Train length improves competitiveness
The chairman of the board of DB Cargo, Roland Bosch, said: “We welcome the government’s decision create a network in Germany that will be accessible for 740-metre trains. For the train operating companies, train length is an important productivity leverage, and this will be greatly improved. With a standard length of 740-metres, rail operators can increase their competitiveness vis à vis road freight transport, on both price and quality.”
Hamburg Port Railway: Up to 12 containers more per train
The head of the Port of Hamburg was also happy with the Transport Ministry’s assessment. “I am very pleased that politicians are giving priority to the 740-metre network. An upgraded network that allows unrestricted access to 740-metre trains will, from day one, considerably boost the efficiency of the trains operating between Hamburg’s port and its hinterland. Capacity utilisation on our trains is already high.” For the combined transport system in the Port of Hamburg, 740 metre trains will mean very appreciable efficiency gains, calculates Kreft: “For combined transport, this will mean between and eight and twelve containers more per train. This additional productivity boost will benefit all participants in the logistics chain, as well as – last but not least – the environment.
HVLE: Strengthening rail freight will benefit climate protection
Ludolf Kerkeling, chairman of the Havilland Railway (HVLE) emphasised the relationship between efficiency increases in the rail freight sector and the climate protection targets set by politicians. “I am exceptionally happy that the positive decision on 740-metre trains, which I was expecting, has now been taken. This is an important step towards increasing efficiency and the resulting strengthening of rail freight transport. However, at the same time, I am calling on politicians to also address the other points contained in the Ministry’s Blueprint for Transport, developed jointly with the railways, and to implement them quickly. This will shift transport onto the environmentally friendly railways and put the transport sector into a position to achieve its climate protection targets.”
SBB Cargo International: 740-metre network an efficiency boost for Europe
For Michail Stahlhut, chairman of SBB Cargo International, the bottlenecks on the German network have become an impediment to rail freight transport in Europe as a whole. Upgrades to expand the 740-metre network is a first important step: “With the 740-metre network, we will achieve a significant boost in efficiency in European rail freight transport. However, we still have not reached an optimum. The interruptions at Rastatt have shown us that we need to reconsider the situation. Our infrastructures need to urgently become more international. This will only happen if the infrastructure is managed centrally. Rail freight transport is European and the management of the infrastructure must also become European. We are calling for interoperability along the entire corridor,” said Stahlhut.
Lokomotion: 740-metre network is standard for Europe
Armin Riedl, managing director of the trans-alpine freight transport specialists Lokomotion Rail, regards the 740-metre network as a step towards considerably longer trains. “Expanding the 740-metre network is absolutely fundamental to the future sustainability of rail freight transport. Because only on the basis of these infrastructure upgrades can we really utilise the strengths of the railway system, namely operating long and heavy trains over long distances. In order to amplify this effect, the standard train length of 740 metres in Germany should be a model for upgrading the European 740-metre network. Going forward, this discussion can only be a step towards further increases in train length to 900 metres or more. From a technical point of view, wagons and locomotives are capable of this without any problems. It is only the infrastructure that hinders us from realising these efficiency gains.”
Pro-Rail Alliance: Politicians have to speed-up planning and implementation
The managing director of the German Pro-Rail Alliance, Dirk Flege, is demanding a clear timetable for the 740-metre network. “Now that the Federal Transport Ministry has finalised its assessment, the measures should be quickly funded and implemented.” Flege pointed to the high cost-benefit ratio for comparatively low costs. “The measures will greatly benefit the economy and the environment and are not difficult to implement. It often only involves moving signals and extending passing loops,” said Flege. With a view to our European neighbours, he warned that the regulatory planning process and implementation needed to be speeded up. “We need centralised planning approval for the railways. In neighbouring EU countries, longer trains are already operating. Denmark operates 835-metres trains and France is planning for 1000-metre trains from 2018,” said Flege. According to the EU Commission, all routes on Europe’s core rail networks should allow trains with a length of at least 740 metres to operate by 2030.