21. February 2017

Electrification: overhead lines for freight trains, not HGVs

EU comparison: 60 percent electrification in Germany only average

A thicket of overhead lines, but still not enough. Germany has a lot of catching up to do on electrification. Only 60 percent of the network is electrified. Other EU states are well ahead.
A thicket of overhead lines, but it is still not enough. Germany has a lot of catching up to do on electrification. Only 60 percent of the network is electrified. Other EU states are well ahead.

Berlin, February 21, 2017. On electro mobility issues, the German Pro-Rail Alliance says that politicians are being negligent when it comes to electrifying the German rail network. The latest EU figures show large differences in the degree of the electrification of Europe’s rail networks, according to a comparative evaluation made by the Pro-Rail Alliance. It shows that although 60 percent of Germany’s rail network is electrified and therefore above the EU average of 52 percent, it is still way behind the European front runners such as Switzerland (degree of electrification 100 percent), Belgium (85 percent), the Netherlands and Sweden (both 76 percent), Italy (71 percent) or Austria (70 percent).

Infographic: Electrification of the national rail networks in Europe

Left: percentage share, selected countries 2014

Right: development from 2007 to 2014
EU average

Elektrifizierung des Schienennetzes in der EU

Electrification: Pro-Rail Alliance is aiming for 70 percent

“While our European neighbours are upgrading their networks to make them more environmentally friendly, we in Germany are besotted with the idea of installing overhead lines on our motorways,” criticised the managing director of the Pro-Rail Alliance, Dirk Flege, on Tuesday in Berlin. “In contrast, there are no clear targets and no properly funded programme of electrification for Germany’s railway network,” complained Flege. The Pro-Rail Alliance called on politicians to adopt a target for the national rail network of 70 percent electrification by 2025. “The least we should aim for is to match Italy on the electrification of rail based transport,” said Flege. He warned that German support for the electrification of mobility meant that it was still somewhere between under-developed and mediocre. As an immediate measure, the German government should now quickly provide funding for the rail lines defined in the legislation on railway expansion.

Transport politicians of all parties want more state investment

When questioned by the Pro-Rail Alliance, leading transport politicians from all the parties in the Bundestag said that they wanted to see the government make a greater effort on electrifying the national rail network. Arnold Vaatz (CDU), vice chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag, said: “Electricity from overhead lines is the most reasonable method of powering electric transport. Investing in our rail network to close the electrification gaps is a sensible and profitable way of spending public funds. It protects the environment and gives our railways a secure future.”

The SPD politician Martin Burkert, chairman of the transport committee in the Bundestag, also highlighted the advantages of defining an electrification target: “A large proportion of rail transport is already powered by electricity. At the same time, 40 percent of the rail network is not equipped with overhead power lines. There is real, untapped potential for more investments, more jobs and more mobility. It is time for an electrification offensive in Germany.”

Electro mobility is more than just electric cars

Sabine Leidig, the transport policy spokeswoman for the Linke Party in the Bundestag, complained that the government’s policies on electro mobility are too focussed on cars: “The federal government helps industry to push its unsellable electric cars onto the public and neglects electro mobility on the railways. Even the Polish rail network has a greater share of electrified lines than Germany. It is high time for a programme of electrification – as an alternative to long queues of HGVs.”

Matthias Gastel, the Green party’s railway policy spokesman in the Bundestag, pointed out that policies in other countries are considerably more sustainable: “On the issue of electro mobility, Germany should not just concentrate on the car. Today, 40 percent of our rail network is still not equipped with overhead lines. Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands are doing considerably more for climate protection. A 70 percent degree of electrification by 2025 is a first, interim target on the way to 100 percent e-mobility on the railways.”

Climate protection: the focus should be on rail’s contribution

Andreas Rimkus, the SPD’s parliamentary deputy spokesman on transport policy in the Bundestag, emphasised the importance of the railways when it comes to supporting electro mobility: “On e-mobility issues, the railways are unfortunately sometimes left in the background. However, that should not blind us to the fact that the railways – an electrically powered mode of transport – make an important contribution to reducing pollutants and environmental pollution. For this reason, I believe it is important to push ahead with railway electrification.”

The CDU politician Dirk Fischer, a member of the transport committee in the Bundestag, emphasised above all the advantages for the port of Hamburg. “Rail freight transport is of decisive importance for the competitiveness of Hamburg’s port. This is why the rail infrastructure upgrades designed to facilitate port hinterland transport, as defined in the legislation on railway expansion, must be must be implemented quickly. The gaps in network electrification must be closed as soon as possible. Electrically powered railway transport is an important factor in energy and climate policies.”


Additional information (German):

Download: Infographic comparing railway electrification in the EU