Tuesday, January 16, 2018

German Freight Trains to Become Longer as Intermodal Infrastructure Gets an Upgrade

Rail Authorities Aim for High Capacity Improvements to Cut Noise and Emissions
Shipping News Feature
GERMANY – The country's rail authorities, which have been much criticised both before and following the Rastatt incident, appear to be moving on long awaited improvements to the network of tracks which will facilitate the ensure the possibility for the wider use of the standard European 740-metre long freight trains which currently only a reported 11% of German trains can access due to physical restrictions of various types.

Last year’s Rail Freight Masterplan from the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, and developed with a host of the country’s industry partners, has some very ambitious objectives, amongst which is the promise to ensure a high capacity intermodal infrastructure is made available. This includes new, lengthened stretches of double track where necessary to accommodate the longer trains, together with relocated signals.

Realigning the tracks in this fashion has been estimated to cost around €400 million but the vision is to put Germany at the heart of a reinvigorated European rail network, both increasing the efficiency of transport services whilst assisting the country to meet ever more rigid pollution targets.

In this respect the Masterplan advocates electrification of all trains where possible and the fitting of new equipment, such as new generation brake blocks, to both cut emissions and reduce noise pollution. The move toward 740 metre trains received universal praise from the train operating companies from the Port of Hamburg, Swiss federal rail subsidiary SBB Cargo International and Lokomotion Rail to DB Cargo, whose Chairman, Roland Bosch, explained:

“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.”

There is no reason to think that the Masterplan is the last word on the subject of longer trains. Following overseas examples such as the US, the thinking is to use 740 metres as a starting point, with the feasibility of one kilometre trains being studied and with the promise of a report on this to be made available during 2018.