01. September 2016

Cross-party support for 740 metre train rail network

Minister Dobrindt must act / freight rail bosses call for 740 metre standard length

The 740 metre train rail network. One standard-length, 740 metre freight train replaces 52 HGVs on the roads. Politicians of all parties recognise the advantages, but bottlenecks on the network mean trains are limited to shorter lengths.
The 740 metre train rail network. One standard-length, 740 metre freight train replaces 52 HGVs on the roads. Politicians of all parties recognise the advantages, but bottlenecks on the network mean trains are limited to shorter lengths.

Berlin, September 1 2016. After notable rail freight bosses called for upgrades to the German rail network to enable freight trains with a standard length of 740 metres to operate, politicians of all parties have voiced their support. In reply to a request from the not-for-profit Pro-Rail Alliance, the chairmen of the transport committees in the German and European parliaments, Martin Burkert and Michael Cramer, both believe that it is now up to federal transport minister Alexander Dobrindt to act. Transport experts from the government coalition parties have long been of the opinion that longer freight trains will have a positive impact on the climate and will mean a considerable boost for rail freight transport.

Net operator DB Netz has registered 66 separate measures for inclusion in the current Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan. Most of the measures to make the network fit for longer trains are relatively inexpensive and not difficult to implement.
The rail network has to be selectively upgraded to enable 740 metre trains to operate.

On Tuesday, the heads of DB Cargo, SBB Cargo International, Havelland Railway, the Port of Hamburg Railway and the freight forwarder Konrad Zippel all spoke out in favour of targeted measures to remove the bottlenecks on the German rail network because the network restriction are not only having a negative effect on domestic rail freight transport but on trans-European transport as well.

According to Deutsche Bahn, the European standard train length of 740 metres is not compatible with many routes in Germany. Because of mostly minor network restrictions, only 11 percent of freight trains operating in Germany are of standard length.




Chairman of the EU transport committee Cramer supports a European core network

“The EU has decided to upgrade the European core rail network to allow longer freight trains to operate by 2030,” said the chairman of the transport committee in the EU parliament, Michael Cramer. For this to happen, all member states must now begin upgrading their networks. “Germany is one the most important transit countries and should definitely not wait until 2030. Unfortunately, the network is only as good as its weakest line,” added Cramer.

Transport committee chairman Burkert calls for swift action on the 740 metre network

“One of the federal government targets is to strengthen rail freight transport,” said Martin Burkert, chairman of the transport committee in the German parliament. “A network fit for longer trains will give us the opportunity to turn well-meant words into action,” The 740 metre rail network will allow politicians to make significant achievements at reasonable cost, said Burkert. At the same time, the committee chairman said the federal transport minister had to act swiftly. “The government has now finally begun the evaluation process for the proposed measures for longer trains that are listed in the current federal transport infrastructure plan. When it comes to debate the legislation on network upgrades in October, the federal parliament needs clear facts and not just ‘pie-in-the-sky’.”

Port of Hamburg: 740 metre network will mean world class connections

Dirk Fischer, a member of the working group on transport and digital infrastructure in the German parliament’s CDU/CSU faction, is hoping that upgrading the network for longer freight trains will, above all, have a positive effect for Hamburg’s port. “The Port of Hamburg is one of the world’s biggest sea ports,” said Fischer. “One competitive advantage is its efficient port railway, because already today 45 percent of the freight it handles is transport onwards by rail.” Which makes the bottlenecks in the hinterland network all the more difficult: “Unfortunately, network limitations often force freight trains to be shorter than the standard length. With standard length, 740 metre trains, the port could get more transport onto the railways,” said Fischer with reference to the debate in the federal parliament in October. “The legislation on upgrades to the railway network is now our best opportunity for Hamburg’s sea port to have world-class rail freight connections to the hinterland network”.

Prepare for planning process for 740 metre network

“The cabinet’s decisions on the federal transport infrastructure plan and the legislation on network upgrades set the right policy course for the railways,” said Ulrich Lange, the transport policy spokesperson for the CDU/CSU faction in the German parliament. “The projects classified as ‘Potentially Required’ can be moved up to the ‘Urgently Required’ category as soon as they fulfil the necessary criteria. These projects include the measures to remove the bottlenecks hindering 740 metre trains,” said Lange, who was confident that the next steps for upgrading the network for 740 metre trains can now be taken without further delays. “This means that parliament can now create the legislative framework for the measures, which can be implemented later, while at the same time, the Ministry for Transport and Digital Infrastructure can still be working on the details. In other words: the process has now begun and progress will continue in spite of the complexity of the projects.” The Union’s transport policy spokesperson pointed out that preparations for the planning process for the 740 metre network must be made now. “In order to ensure swift implementation later on, it is important to now think about organising the planning capacity that will then be required,” said Lange.

Longer freight trains help protect the climate

Green party support for rail freight transport stems above all from its positive effect on the climate. “Transport’s impact on the climate is a big worry. Since 1990, the transport sector has not managed to achieve a reduction in CO2 levels, said Stephan Kühn, the Green’s parliamentary spokesperson on transport policy. “The targets agreed at the Paris UN climate summit cannot be achieved without shifting traffic from the roads to the railways. This requires additional capacity. Upgrading the infrastructure for freight trains with a length on 740 metres will increase network efficiency and improved rail freight’s economic performance,” said Kühn.

Rambling policy course: Linke in favour of longer freight trains instead of longer HGVs

The parliamentary spokesperson on transport policy for the Linke party, Sabine Leidig, is annoyed with the government’s rambling course on the 740 metre network. “The government is pressing ahead with longer HGVs but on longer freight trains it’s rambling in the extreme,” said Leidig, who called for a better, overall balance between rail and road. “In the draft federal transport infrastructure plan, the railways are once again underrepresented. That is completely inadequate if we want to achieve a transport turnaround with the much heralded modal shift from the roads to the railways. Improvements are urgently needed.”

Pro-Rail Alliance: 740 metre network must be given priority

The managing director of the German Pro-Rai Alliance, Dirk Flege, was pleased with the comprehensive support for the 740 metre network. “It is not very often that businesses, politicians and associations are all in agreement,” said Flege. “It is proof that the era of network bottlenecks and short freight trains in Germany must come to an end. The ball is now in the federal transport ministry’s court”. Flege estimates that the 66 upgrade measures identified by the network operator DB Netz will cost between 200 and 300 million euros. “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, who called for urgency. “Longer trains are already operating in neighbouring countries. Denmark has trains with a length of 835 metres, France is planning freight trains measuring 1,000 metres from 2018,” said Flege. According to the EU Commission, all routes on Europe’s core rail networks should be upgraded to allow trains with a length of at least 740 metres to operate by 2030.


Additional information:

What Germany’s rail freight bosses are calling for: the 740 metre network

Background: where freight trains could be longer

Chart: development of the price gap between HGVs and freight trains 2010 – 2016

Business wants more rail freight: modal shift concepts from Henkel and BASF

EU per capita investment: Germany is lagging behind on network construction