MegaHub Lehrte (Photo: DB/Andreas Witzel)

GERMANY: Intermodal services using the automated MegaHub terminal at Lehrte, about 20 km east of Hannover, will be stepped up significantly during April. This follows a ‘running in’ period since the terminal opened for trial commercial services in June last year.

The first customer was Osnabrück-based Hellmann Worldwide Logistics, which switched from using the intermodal terminal at Hannover-Linden. Since February 3 this year Megahub Lehrte has also been served on a trial basis by Kombiverkehr trains operated in conjunction with DB Cargo and logistics company Lanfer Logistik. Kombiverkehr is planning to make extensive use of the terminal in the future.

Located at the crossroads of north-south and east-west routes on the German network, the terminal is currently served by a regular Regensburg/Landshut – Osnabrück intermodal train, but from April 6 there will be direct trains to Kiel in north Germany and to Verona in Italy. From the same date three other intermodal services will be routed via Lehrte: Duisburg – Malmö, München – Hamburg and Ludwigshafen – Lübeck.

Train-to-train transfers

Until now containers and swap bodies at MegaHub Lehrte have been transhipped only between road vehicles and trains, but from April the terminal will start train-to-train transfers. Trains will be timed to arrive and depart during one of two 3 h nightly windows. During each window the trains will exchange loads, so catering for a wide range of origins and destinations. The transfer process is expected to take much less time than shunting wagons between trains in a marshalling yard.

MegaHub Lehrte (Photo: DB/Hanna Megas)

Arriving trains hauled by electric locomotives will coast into one of the two groups of three 720 m long sidings; these are not electrified as they are spanned by three portal cranes used to load and unload the trains.

Between the two sets of tracks is a sealed area reserved for 12 automated battery-powered rubber-tyred shuttles that carry containers and swap bodies along the facility between the portal cranes under the control of a central computer.

MegaHub Lehrte (Photo: DB/Volker Spanel)

At the moment three cranes are used. Each is designed to handle up to 30 loads an hour, and plans envisage that three more cranes will be added as traffic develops. MegaHub Lehrte has a design capacity of 269 000 transhipments a year.

The terminal occupies about 120 000 m2 on the site of sidings forming part of the marshalling yard at Lehrte. Plans were first drawn up in 1993, and construction was envisaged in 1997, but planning permission was not granted until April 2005. Further delays in the planning process followed, and only in 2011 did detailed design resume. Agreement was reached that year for financing the project, but construction did not start until May 2018. At that time the terminal was due to be operational by the end of 2019, with the €170m cost met by Deutsche Bahn and the federal government.