The tunnel in Rastatt is filled with concrete over a stretch of 50 metres in an effort to stabilize sunken railway tracks, source: Hollandse Hoogte

Economic damage of Rastatt incident more than 2 billion Euros

The Rastatt incident that paralysed rail freight traffic during a seven-week interruption of railway operations on the Karlsruhe-Basel line of the Rhine-Alphine Corridor has resulted in economic damage of more than two billion Euros for the industry. This is the conclusion of HTC Hanseatic Transport Consultancy, the European Rail Freight Association (ERFA), the European Rail Network (NEE) and the International Union for Combined Rail-Road Transport (UIRR), which jointly published a report on the damage on Sunday.

The assessment of the economic damage has been made determining the value-added losses for all companies within the rail supply chain. The total value-added losses from the Rastatt interruption amount to approximately 2 billion Euros. The loss of rail logistics companies is 969 million Euros and manufacturing industries suffered losses of 771 millions. The loss of related entities, such as infrastructure managers and terminal operators, was 308 million Euros.

The mentioned companies interviewed railway companies, freight forwarders, operators, terminal operators and other parties involved in the rail freight sector. They have made the calculations defensively, meaning that in practice the damage inflicted could be even more.


Several factors attributed to the loss of added value. For trains that could not depart, additional overheads had to be arranged, as well as alternative logistics solutions along the rail-based supply chain, downtimes in terminals and extra services for freight forwarding. Trains that did depart were bound to detour routes; this required extra work for personnel, traction and rolling stock.

Railway operators suffered general penalties in the supply chain for delayed and non-driven trains, and infrastructure operators were tasked with additional planning and scheduling tasks. Shippers and manufacturing companies connected with rail logistics were also burdened with extra work, all adding up to the loss of added value, the report concludes.

Loss in traffic

During the period of interruption, only 33 per cent of scheduled feight traffic operated, albeit in part under adverse operational condition, the report reads. Due to the holiday period, the expected number of trains on the stretch was 162, in comparison to the regular 200 trains per day. This means that 8,262 trains could have operated if the Rastatt incident had not occurred. Instead, the number of trains able to operate was around 2,627.

Apart from the interruption caused by the incident in Rastatt, limited availability of alternative routes increased the disturbance of rail freight traffic. Less than forty per cent of the theoretical capacity of diversion routes could actually be used. The main load was carried along the Gäubahn bypass, accounting for 48.6 per cent of the traffic diverted. None of the diversion routes were fully ultilised during the interruption. Moreover, freight trains on average ran less well loaded than during normal operations, as train formations were shorter and utalisation rates lower.

Modal shift

The interruption on the railway line has led to an increase in heavy truck traffic between Karlsruhe and Basel. This was true for trailers that did not comply with the P400 gauge profile requirement on the diversion routes, for example, the report concluded. The interruption resulted in an increase of one thousand lorry journeys per week. Nevertheless, over the course of 2017, Switzerland lost an approximate one per cent of its rail market share.

This modal shift could also be translated in economic damage, as this has resulted in additional burden on the climate, the report concluded. Based on a model calculation for the upper Rhine Valley, the modal shift on the link between Karlsruhe and Basel caused 39,000 tonnes additional CO2 emissions. This resulted in further socially relevant costs due to environmental damage of 5.6 to 8.4 million Euros, the report reads.


The Rastatt interruption shows the inadequate coordination of operations and construction projects, the companies responsible for the research state. “While many traffic flows are international, the infrastructure managers still behave primarily according to national ‘rules of play’. Most bypass offers rightly demanded after Rastatt were rejected as they were too expensive. In this way, comparable events and consequences analogous to Rastatt will likely occur in the future.”

On the 12th of August last year, water and soil penetrated part of the new Rastatt tunnel in Germany. As a result, the ground subsided and the railway tracks above the tunnel warped. The railway line between Karslruhe and Basel was unavailable for all traffic until 7 October, meaning a seven-week disturbance. Until now, nobody has assumed reliability for the incidents and the financial consequences for the parties described above.

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Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is the editor-in-chief of, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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