“The tasks are clearly defined: the federal transport ministry should quickly conclude its evaluation process for the 740m network, which has now finally begun, thus enabling the federal parliament to debate the relevant legislation in October,” Flege says.


Flege estimates that the 66 upgrade measures identified by Germany’s infrastructure manager DB Networks will only cost between €200m and €300m. “The measures will greatly benefit the economy and the environment and are not difficult to implement,” Flege says. “It often only involves moving signals and extending passing loops.”

Only 11% of freight trains in Germany are longer than 700m, while 64% are less than 600m long. “Upgrading the network for longer freight trains would also be an efficiency boost,” says the chairman of DB Cargo, Mr Jürgen Wilder. “The length of the train is our most effective lever for lowering the unit cost in rail freight transport, as was demonstrated by our pilot project for longer freight trains on the Maschen (Hamburg) - Padborg route.”

“Longer freight trains are already operating in neighbouring countries,” Flege says. “Denmark has trains with a length of 835m, and France is planning freight trains measuring 1000m from 2018.” But trains often have to be reduced in length when they reach the German border which increases operating costs and reduces network capacity.

Mr Michail Stahlhut, chairman of SBB Cargo International, also wants train lengths to be increased. “Because the new Gotthard tunnel is built for 750m trains, we can transport around 30% more freight using the same number of trains,” Stahlhut says. “The Gotthard tunnel is a massive opportunity for Europe’s rail freight sector. Italy is already making its network fit for 740m trains. In the German government’s current infrastructure plan, a decision on long freight trains has surprisingly been put on hold.”

The European Commission want all routes on Europe’s core rail networks to be upgraded to allow 750m freight trains to operate by 2030.