CONTAINER trains using the Brenner route across the Alps are taking up to 12h from close of loading in München to the first box being unloaded in Verona. A lorry can do the trip in 9h, and prices are typically 10 to 15% cheaper. So the Brenner motorway is crushingly overloaded, while Austrian Federal Railways and its German and Italian partners are struggling.

Among those who believe rail could do better is Karl Fischer, who runs a forwarding business in Hemhof. Less than satisfied, Fischer recently asked for permission to ride with his freight to see what happened en route. He saw eight loco changes, with crews also switching frequently. As a result he is convinced that rail times could be halved just by better organisation, use of multi-voltage locos and through-working of crews.

Fischer has persuaded the three railways to see what improvements can be made, and has secured around DM2m from the Land of Bavaria for a study. Also involved are Kombiverkehr of Germany, Ökombi of Austria and Cemat of Italy, plus the Frauenhof Institute for Materials Flow & Logistics.

A pilot service should run by the end of this year, but to achieve a consistent 6h timing some long-term changes are needed. If the experiment works, the lessons will be applied elsewhere. Meanwhile, we wonder how this affects the case for a Brenner base tunnel.