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EurailFreight restates the industry's old problems

01 Jul 2003

INTRO: Ralf Roman Rossberg reports from the EurailFreight event in München on May 22-23

ITALIAN Transport Minister Pietro Lunardi opened the EurailFreight 2003 congress in the German city of München on May 22, launching an event intended to achieve for the freight business what EurailSpeed has done for Europe's high speed passenger services. Coinciding with the Transport Logistic 2003 trade fair in the same location, the event was to have been graced by Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio and German Transport Minister Manfred Stolpe, but unfortunately neither attended.

Staged by the Community of European Railways, the International Union of Railways, and the Union of European Railway Industries, EurailFreight saw a Joint Declaration presented to Lunardi (below). The document was signed by CERChairman Giancarlo Cimoli, UIC Chairman Benedikt Weibel, Vice Chairman of Unife Hans Schabert, and Hartmut Mehdorn, Chairman of German Railway, the host and joint organiser of the event.

The declaration restates the European railways' old problems - national borders hinder development of international traffic, while the need for technical interoperability highlights the issue. Needless to say, achieving interoperability will require more public funding. Similarly, the political framework put rail at a disadvantage compared to its road competitors. Another factor working against rail is the unwillingness of some states to open up their networks to on-rail competition.

The declaration starts by noting that it 'is set against a background of a new business and political environment for the railway sector'. It then poses the question 'how can the railway sector and the political community work together to generate the necessary change in European rail freight?'

The 'increasingly international dimension of trade and industries' means that 50% of freight traffic within the EU now crosses at least one border. The signatories believe that this 'explosive growth in freight transport necessitates a greater contribution from the railway sector' and moves to integrate different modes 'on a pan-European basis.'

Suggesting that 'the projected increases in rail freight (40% by 2010 and 100% by 2020 respectively) cannot be achieved relying solely on the existing European railway infrastructure', the declaration calls for 'substantial additional resources ... to generate the necessary capacity', including 'the Europe-wide introduction of a dedicated rail freight network'. Such rail freight corridors should offer 'a direct route with their own individual operational control/command centres and one-stop-shop slot allocation systems'.

Aware that 'improving quality, productivity and performance is a top priority', the signatories 'declare their belief in competition and co-operation in the context of an increasingly emergent single European railway market.' Nevertheless, 'the railway sector accepts that these efforts are only a starting point'.

Given the need for 'removal of technical and operational barriers to cross-border traffic', the declaration supports the work of AEIF on the technical specifications for interoperability. It looks for 'a smooth transition' to the future European Railway Agency. 'In the longer run', research and development will be 'promoted by the railway sector' through the Strategic Rail Research Agenda and 'funded by the EU'.

Implementation of interoperability and the gradual introduction of ERTMS 'will require substantial efforts including additional public funds'. And the railways consider it 'esssential that an intermodal level playing field in access charging including external cost, together with cross-modal financing, guarantees the necessary financial resources to reinforce the railway infrastructure as a guarantee of sustainable mobility.'

Perspectives on European rail freight

'A realistic foundation to ensure positive prospects for rail freight in Europe can only be established if the railway sector and the political decision-makers work closely together in a systematic and co-ordinated way to embrace the common endeavour for a vibrant revitalisation of the sector to the benefit of sustainable mobility and development in Europe.

'EurailFreight 2003 is testimony to the current international efforts that can guide European rail freight towards a promising and successful future.'

Stinnes on top

WHEN German Railway acquired logistics specialist Stinnes last year, questions were asked as to who was taking over whom. Further changes to the German rail freight businesses are now in hand, and from September 1 Stinnes will form an umbrella organisation over DB Cargo in the form of a holding company. Stinnes will count among its subsidiaries the successful forwarding company Schenker, which until 1991 belonged to DB. Schenker was then sold by DB to help its balance sheet, and now DB has brought it back into the fold.

Under the future structure, Stinnes will be allocated operational tasks in the logistics field for bulk goods, while Schenker will handle the logistics for 'packaged goods'. DB Cargo's role, together with Railion Benelux and Railion Denmark, will be limited to transport services. The railway will in future not be able to seek business directly from freight customers, but must work through forwarding agents. This arrangement is intended to ensure a measure of neutrality, with Schenker as 'in-house' forwarder not being favoured over its competitors.

Lorry fees will not bite hard

FROM August 31 lorries using German motorways will have to pay an 'access fee' of €0·12/km. The government had proposed €0·15/km, but opposition in the Bundestag forced a series of concessions. Apart from the lower fee, fuel and vehicle taxes will be reduced for German hauliers, and investment grants to a value of €600m a year will be made available for hauliers to acquire low-emission vehicles.

Motorway taxes were hotly debated at EurailFreight, and rail operators were manifestly disappointed at the political compromise that will see hauliers escape with hardly any increase in their 'track costs' - the plans to impose the fees had encouraged the rail operators to anticipate higher market share.

The government has nonetheless indicated that the fee will rise to €0·15/km in due course. But in Switzerland a switch from road to rail is only expected to occur when fees rise to around €0·50/km; by 2008 the Swiss expect to be charging fees of SFr1·08/km for a 40 tonne lorry, equivalent at current exchange rates to €0·71/km.

CAPTION: On show for the first time at EuroFreight 2003 was a series-built Class 189 four-system electric loco for DB Cargo. Following the unveiling of the prototype at InnoTrans in Berlin last year (RG 9.02 p540), Siemens is supplying 100 locos at a cost of €300m, with deliveries running from May 2003 to December 2006. On the left is one of 38 Hcceerrs 330 'Tube' double-deck car carriers built by Alstom LHB to move DaimlerChrysler cars between Sindelfingen and Bremerhaven in four block trains per day

CAPTION: AMONG the wide range of modern freight rolling stock on show at the Transport Logistic trade fair in München was a two-section Habis 'Automotive MaXX' high-capacity sliding-wall wagon (above). Launched by DB in May, these vehicles are being used to move Volkswagen car components between plants. Equipped with GPS real-time location tracking, the vehicles have an interior height of 3050mm, giving a load volume of 230m3 for a floor area of 75m2.

Rolling stock leasing company VTG is putting into service a fleet of 'crash-protected' tank wagons for chlorine traffic (top right). Built by Waggonbau Brüninghaus GmbH, they have replaceable buffers and deformation elements able to withstand impacts at up to 35 km/h. Shields protect the tank ends against over-riding, and improvements to the filler dome provide added protection against leakage if the vehicle overturns.

A batch of 300 Euro Tank Car universal tank wagons (centre right) was built for Swiss leasing company Wascosa by Trinity Industry's Arad workshops in Romania. Destined for use in the chemical and petrochemical industries, the vehicles have a capacity of 95m3. Wascosa also displayed a Graaf-built tanker (bottom right) with a capacity of 75m3 and 22·5 tonne axleload. It is one of 100 universal chemical tank wagons being supplied to the lessor by various manufacturers.