16. June 2018

“Without electrification, the flood of HGVs cannot be stopped”

Germany makes it hard for freight trains to cross its borders

One of the many border crossings without electrification: The station at Bayerisch Eisenstein in Bavaria connects Germany and the Czech Republic.

Berlin, June 16, 2018. For decades, the German governments in power have promised to shift freight transport from the roads to the railways. However, this has not stopped convoys of heavy goods vehicles on Germany’s roads from growing ever longer, with rail freight transport’s market share decreasing. One reason for this poor state of affairs: as Europe’s main transit country, Germany’s rail network is inaccessible for international freight trains because of a lack of overhead cables. “Long-distance freight trains are pulled by electric locomotives but out of ten border crossings with Poland only one is electrified. And of the 14 rail routes to the Czech Republic, again only one is electrified. So it is no wonder that huge numbers of east European HGVs flood Germany’s motorways every day. Without the electrification of the rail freight network, the flood of HGVs cannot be stopped,” said Dirk Flege, managing director of the Pro-Rail Alliance, on Saturday in Berlin.

According to a Pro-Rail Alliance survey of the 57 border crossings that connect Germany’s rail network to all of its neighbours, only 25 are equipped with overhead power lines. The share of electrification of the railway lines that cross international borders is 44 percent, considerably lower than that of the rest of the German network (60 percent).

“The economic viability of freight trains is at its highest when large volumes of goods are transported over long distances. It is therefore no wonder that 50 percent of the freight on Germany’s railways is for international transport. The lack of overhead cables at border crossings in Germany forces freight trains, particularly those from Eastern Europe, into a few network bottlenecks, which makes it impossible to achieve any significant modal shift from trucks onto goods trains,” criticised the transport alliance’s managing director.

In comparison with its neighbours, Germany also lags behind on the overall level of electrification of its rail network. Whereas 64 percent of Poland’s network is electrified, the share in Austria is 71 percent, in the Netherlands it is 76 percent, in Belgium 86 percent, and the Swiss are proud of their 100% electrification. The German coalition government has agreed a target of 70 percent rail network electrification by 2025. The grand coalition has so far not set a target for border crossings, even though their electrification “is also extremely important for international passenger trains” according to Pro-Rail Alliance sources.


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