“Our goal is to shift more freight transport to environmentally-friendly rail, to increase the market share of the sector and to strengthen the industry permanently,” Dobrint says. “In the coming year, the federal government will significantly reduce rail freight prices for rail freight transport. To this end, we are providing €350m within the 2018 budget. This will make rail freight transport cheaper.

“In addition, we are investing in the expansion of infrastructure, such as the network for 740m-long trains, driving the digitisation and automation of transport and loading processes and promoting innovation.”

The plan, which was drawn up in consultation with the rail freight industry, envisages upgrading lines and major junctions, which are important for freight transport, and extending passing loops to accommodate 740m freight trains.

Not only will train paths be cheaper to procure but the plan calls for the introduction of an online train path booking system.

The ministry says the first automated and digitised train system is being tested on a digital test field in a marshalling yard in Munich. The objective is to fully automate freight train shunting and coupling and a pilot project is scheduled to start this summer.

“With the master plan, we will have a considerable push for innovation on the railway,” says Mr Berthold Huber, German Rail’s (DB) board member for traffic. “Automated coupling, autonomous shunting, intelligent freight wagons connected to the internet, as well as a better training landscape for our personnel, will make the rail freight transport much more attractive.”