Bulk Distributor Nov/Dec 16 - Page 4

4 BULKDISTRIBUTOR Intermodal November/December 2016 Stretching the network A s European countries look to encourage modal shift from road to rail, one seemingly obvious answer is increasing the capacity of freight trains by making them longer. France has been experimenting with trains as long as 1,500m for three years now. But surprisingly Germany still has to catch up with much of the continent by being able to accommodate 740m train lengths, the standards European scale. After rail freight sector bosses and transport politicians of all factions voiced their support for upgrading the German rail network to allow longer freight trains to operate, regional transport ministers gave their backing at a state transport ministers summit. The transport ministers are calling on the federal government to create improved development to enable rail freight transport to increase its market share. In particular, the federal government should make a statement on “operating 740m freight trains across the network”, said the transport ministers in a unanimous resolution passed at the summit in Stuttgart. According to the Pro-Rail Alliance, a non-profit transport association, the regional transport ministers in North RhineWestphalia, Hesse, Baden Württemberg, Brandenburg, and SaxonyAnhalt all regard 740m trains as an intelligent means of shifting freight from roads to rail. The German Environment Agency is now also urging the rapid implementation of measures to allow operations of longer trains. Transport experts from all the national parties have already acknowledged the positive impact that a 740m freight train would have for the climate. The bosses of DB Cargo, SBB Cargo International, Havelland Railway, 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 places across Germany have to be extended and several network bottlenecks must be addressed. According to Deutsche Bahn, the standard European train length of 740m cannot operate on many lines in Germany. Due to what are often minor network restrictions, only 11 percent of freight trains operating in the country are of the standard EU length. In 2015, rail freight in Germany carried 116.6 billion tonnekilometres. The Federal Environment Ministry and the Environment Agency have said that over the next 10 years, rail freight should improve this performance by almost double. However, there are bottlenecks in Germany’s rail network close to major rail hubs and also on several busy lines. This is why the rail network has to be upgraded, say rail advocates. Longer freight trains, they argue, will reduce the cost of transport and improve the capacity utilisation of the network, enabling a greater volume of goods to be transported without having to construct new lines. 700m. Over 60 percent of the trains operating on Deutsche Bahn’s network are shorter than 600m. The maximum length of a train largely depends on the line’s technical limitations. Train operating companies and DB Netz AG, the rail infrastructure company that operates around 87 percent of the German network, have been working since 2006 to upgrade infrastructure for longer blocks. European standards for the length of a freight train are 740m and, in some cases, 835m. An average freight train operating on the German rail network is comprised of 25 to 30 wagons. In future, trains should be comprised of 35 wagons, which is the equivalent of 740m. For the transport of containers, this means that this longer train would replace 52 heavy goods vehicles. But to make such a network reality upgrades have to be selective. It is only necessary to make small changes Due to minor network restrictions only 11 percent of freight trains operating in Germany are of the standard EU to the network to enable standard EU length freight length trains to operate. In order for a 740m train to run as safely as shorter trains, passing loops and sidings have to be trains with some 5,000 wagons operate on weekdays. extended. In addition, upgrades to signalling and safety equipment In the transport of bulk goods in particular, rail freight is the on the lines and at level crossings may be necessary, for example, by leading mode of transport, although the majority of new cars are moving signal lights and monitoring points. Freight loading terminals also transported by rail. The container ships that transport freight to and combined transport terminals also have to be partially extended the ports are also increasing in size. 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