05. October 2016

Environment Agency supports 740 metre freight trains

Transport minister summit adds rail freight bosses’ demands to the agenda

A freight train with a standard length of 740 metres replaces 52 HGVs. The Federal Environment Agency now supports rail freight bosses. The regional transport ministers will also debate the advantages of 740 metre trains at their summit in Stuttgart.
A freight train with a standard length of 740 metres replaces 52 HGVs. The Federal Environment Agency has now sided with rail freight bosses. The regional transport ministers will also debate the advantages of network upgrades at their summit in Stuttgart.

Berlin, October 5 2016. After well-known rail freight sector bosses and transport politicians of all factions voiced their support for upgrades to the German rail network to enable longer freight trains to operate, transport ministers from the federal states have now added the issue of 740 metre trains to the agenda for their upcoming summit. In the run up to the summit, which takes place on Thursday and Friday in Stuttgart, the German Pro-Rail Alliance appealed to the federal states to make the issue of upgrading the German network to enable EU standard length trains a matter of the highest priority. At the same time, the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) has now also sided with the proponents of the 740 metre network.

Transport experts from all the national parties have already acknowledged the positive impact that 740 metre trains would have for the climate. The bosses of DB Cargo, SBB Cargo International, the Havelland Railway, the Port of Hamburg Railway and the freight forwarder Konrad Zippel are all hoping for a double-digit increase in efficiency. To achieve this, passing loops at selected place across Germany have to be extended and several network bottlenecks have to be addressed.

According to the national operator Deutsche Bahn, the standard European train length of 740 metres cannot operate on many lines in Germany. Due to what are often minor network restrictions, only 11 percent of freight trains operating in Germany are of the standard EU length.

740 metre trains: Environment Agency boss calls for urgency

“If we want to meet our targets on climate protection, there is no getting around the issue of shifting transport from the roads. In particular, the strongly expanding freight transport sector will have to make its contribution to climate protection,” said the UBA president Maria Krautzberger. Whereas the UBA is mainly critical of the latest infrastructure plan because it is too road oriented, Krautzberger said that the projects listed in the plan to enable 740 metre trains to operate are sustainable. “Upgrades that will allow 740 metre trains to operate across the network are key measures. They will increase the productivity of rail freight and reduce its costs”. Krautzberger referred to current UBA studies that confirm that rail freight transport has untapped potential for the climate, which can be quickly realised. “Without rail freight transport we will miss our climate protection targets. This is why the 740 metre network should now be quickly given the highest priority. At the same time, it is important that rail freight transport becomes quieter. Technical upgrades to the wagons are essential to achieving this aim.”

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

The managing director of the German Pro-Rai Alliance, Dirk Flege, was visibly pleased with the comprehensive support for network upgrades. “It rarely happens that businesses, politicians and experts are in complete agreement,” said Flege. “It is an indication that the era of bottlenecks and short freight trains is coming to an end in Germany. It is now up to the summit of state transport ministers to give the necessary backing to the network upgrade projects listed in the federal infrastructure plan that will enable 740 metre trains to operate. If the federal states come out clearly in favour of the upgrades that will be a signal for federal transport minister Dobrindt that the 740 metre network must be classed as high priority and be taken off the back burner.” Flege estimates that the 66 upgrade measures identified by the network operator DB Netz will only 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. According to the EU Commission, all routes on Europe’s core rail networks should be suitable for trains with a length of at least 740 metres to operate by 2030. “But in any case that we should not wait that long.”

SCI: Germany is putting the brakes on European rail freight transport

Other transport experts are also emphasising the advantages of upgrading the network for 740 metre trains. “We urgently need more capacity for freight transport,” said the managing director of transport consultants SCI Verkehr, Maria Leenen. “In fact, the very opposite is now happening. Germany is putting the brakes on European freight rail transport. With our infrastructure deficits we are increasingly become a bottleneck on trans-European corridors,” said Leenen, and referred to the Betuwe line in the west or the lines in Southern Germany that were not upgraded in time for the opening of the Gotthard base tunnel. “Our neighbours have been doing their infrastructure homework while politicians in Germany have continued to delay,” criticised the SCI managing director. Above all, Leenen called for rapid upgrades to the German rail network for 740 metre trains. “In order to fully exploit the advantages of the railway system over HGVs, our trains must become longer,” said Leenen. “Right now, trains with a length of up to four kilometres are operating in the USA and Australia. France is currently testing freight trains with a length of 1,500 metres. And from 2018, 1,000 metre trains will regularly be operating on the French network. In Germany, the network does not even allow standard length freight trains to operate across the network.”

 

Additional information:

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

740 metre trains: what federal politicians are saying about longer freight trains

Background: how to enable 740 metre trains to operate

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

Business want more freight trains: modal shift concepts from Henkel and BASF

EU per capita investment: Germany lagging behind on network upgrades