INTRO: Express Shuttle GmbH is close to ordering 12 freight multiple-units with both diesel and electric propulsion; each will carry 10 or 12 swap bodies belonging to UPS or Deutsche Post Transport. Richard Hope reports on plans for a national network requiring around 70 of these 160 km/h units

BYLINE: Can Baki

Operations ManagerUPS Rail Transport Europe

WHILE OTHERS TALK about establishing open access freight services in Germany, global parcels and document delivery company UPS has teamed up with the national post office to create a dedicated network of 160 km/h intermodal trains. Scheduled to start running in October 1999, initial overnight services are expected to link München and Stuttgart with Hannover and Hamburg, using the Hannover - Würzburg high speed line. If they are successful, a network of overnight trains will cover the country.

United Parcel Service is the world’s biggest carrier of packages and documents, employing 26000 people in over 200 countries. UPS makes extensive use of rail in North America but relies largely on road and air in Europe. This is about to change in Germany, and the intention is to create fast rail services across Europe in the longer term.

Can Baki is Operations Manager for UPS Rail Transport Europe. He leads the team which is charged with setting up the German operation under the open access regime, and negotiating with manufacturers to acquire the trains. ’It was two years ago that we first started looking at rail as an alternative to road and air’, he says. ’A new legal framework permitting open access to the tracks of Deutsche Bahn came into force in 1994, and we came to the conclusion that we should try to run the service ourselves’.

Deutsche Post Transport, which stopped using rail in 1996, had come to the same conclusion. Although the two parcels carriers are competitors, and intend to remain so, they decided to form Express Shuttle GmbH as a joint venture to manage the new long distance overnight rail service. KEP-Log, a junior partner in the project, contributes its rail operator’s licence.

In May 1995, UPS announced a five year plan to invest $1·1bn in Europe. September 1996 saw a range of new services launched, as a result of which the volume of Express Service business in Europe handled in the first quarter of 1998 was over 30% up on the last quarter of 1997. ’Traffic congestion on the roads - even at night - is getting worse’, says Baki. Nobody expects things to improve, so ’over long distances rail will increasingly become more reliable’.

UPS does use rail today for 4% of the 130 million packages which originate in Germany every year; this fills 25 to 30 containers a day, some bound for Italy. But the slow service provided by DB Cargo is only suitable for a minority of consignments which are not time-sensitive.

By providing fast and reliable services dedicated to the overnight delivery business, which requires acceptance of swap bodies at combined transport terminals up to 21.00 and arrival up to 1000 km away before 05.00, rail can beat road on speed despite the delay penalty of two intermodal transfers. ’And we need this performance not just on one leg but all across Germany’, Baki emphasises.

The declaration of intent to form the joint venture with DPT was signed on March 9 1998. Baki explains that the sole objective of working with DPT is to generate enough volume to justify the investment of DM250m to DM300m, which UPS and DPT are sharing equally. ’Together we can get enough business from the first day to justify the operation’.

Baki insists that the two companies will compete with each other for business as now, despite sharing the trains. ’Competition is done on service quality - not on the highway where one truck just follows another’. Indeed, he is quite happy to sell spare space on the trains if there is anybody else in this fiercely competitive market.

Tough negotiations

As soon as Express Shuttle was set up, Baki plunged into negotiations with DB Netz, infrastructure controller for DB’s network. ’At the beginning it was a bit strange - we encountered "government thinking" rather than what you expect in a private company. But during the negotiations they changed their ways of thinking, and we were able to find solutions to problems.’

Operational issues, such as timetable paths, have largely been resolved. The only outstanding issue is the price to be paid for access - though this is obviously important. Express Shuttle will either employ or hire in its own drivers.

Negotiations were also necessary to gain access to existing intermodal terminals, most of which are owned by DB. In the main, this meant extending operational hours during the night which Baki says was ’not a problem’.

Postal sorting offices in most German cities are located close to the railway, and traditionally had their own sidings with loading docks. Express Shuttle will not use these, relying instead on swap bodies which require cranes for rapid road/rail transfer.

Freight multiple-units

While negotiating with DB, Baki’s team were also talking to six rolling stock suppliers about the unusual trains Express Shuttle would need.

These are best described as freight multiple-units. The semi-permanently coupled rakes of six flat wagons capable of carrying 10 or 12 swap bodies are superficially similar to the CargoSprinter prototypes delivered to DB Cargo last year (RG 4.97 p218).

In fact, Express Shuttle’s FMU specification is a much tougher proposition for the suppliers. Cabs at each end of the unit will have to be fitted with pantographs because both diesel and 15 kV 16 2/3Hz electric propulsion is required - all to be fitted in under the decks of the wagons.

Where CargoSprinter has only the two outer wagons powered, the 160 km/h top speed allowing the FMUs to maintain fast schedules will require more power than the four 265 kW bus engines, each driving one axle. The wagons will not be articulated, and where CargoSprinter carries two 20ft containers on each platform, each FMU wagon must accommodate two swap bodies 7·15 or 7·8 m long.

There is also a requirement for up to seven FMUs to form a train controlled by one driver. The maximum train length permitted on DB is 700m, and FMU proposals put forward by suppliers range from 94 to 98m; CargoSprinter is 89·6m long.

Autocouplers which can be operated from inside the cab are specified. Baki says there will only be one driver on each train, who will handle any coupling and uncoupling required to enable FMUs from different terminals to be combined during transit.

The initial service, still scheduled to start in October 1999, will require 12 FMUs. Tenders are currently being reviewed, and Baki intends to order them as soon as the access agreements with DB are tied up. Although he says ’they must be ordered in September, or October at the very latest’, it would be a remarkable feat if such complex trains were to be developed and commissioned within 12 months.

Future plans

UPS strategy for Germany is to put around 30% of consignments on rail for the trunk haul. This is in line with the 29% carried by rail in the USA, though average rail distances within Germany will necessarily be shorter.

This level of service will require 70 to 73 FMUs by October 1999. The DM250m to DM300m investment covers an initial order for 12. ’The 30% rail share is based on business that we have identified now’, says Baki; so the rail volume could be higher if business expands, or more parcels carriers decide to use Express Shuttle’s trains.

Obviously, there is scope to expand FMU operations outside Germany, but ’that is for the future - we must gain experience here before we venture out into the rest of Europe.’ o

’The trains will be ordered as soon as the access agreements are tied up’

Can Baki

UPS Rail Transport Europe

Les entreprises de messagerie définissent un réseau en libre accès

Express Shuttle Gmbh est sur le point de commander 12 automotrices à la fois diesels et électriques, avec motorisation sous le plancher et une cabine de conduite à chaque extrémité. Capables de rouler à 160 km/h, chacune d’elles transportera 10 à 12 caisses mobiles appartenant à UPS ou à Deutsche Post Transport, qui se sont unis en mars 1998 afin de créer un réseau national de dessertes, créant ainsi un besoin pour 70 automotrices fret de ce typePakettransporteure definieren Open Access-Netz

Die Express Shuttle GmbH steht kurz vor der Bestellung von 12 Güter-Triebzügen mit unterflur angeordnetem Diesel- und Elektroantrieb und einem Führerstand an jedem Ende. Die für 160 km/h ausgelegten Einheiten transportieren 10 bis 12 UPS oder der Deutschen Post Transport geh