Pro-Rail Alliance: Government must give freight a chance

Germany’s ‘misguided policies’ favouring road freight users over rail have helped transport become the country’s biggest climate problem, says the German Pro-Rail Alliance. It said that a new report on greenhouse gases (GHG) by the German Environment Agency had underlined the effects of national road-centric policies, and that now was the time for government action to help the rail freight sector.

The alliance warned German transport politicians against believing that the the increase in emissions was simply as a result of factors such as cooler temperatures or low petrol prices.

Dirk Flege, Managing Director of the alliance, said: “The increase in emissions is, above all, the result of misguided transport policies. For years, there has been a lack of real commitment to a turnaround in transport or concrete measures on modal shift.”

Climate protection

The railways, he added, could play a ‘key role’ in meeting the Government’s targets on climate protection.

““The majority of trains are already electric and more than 40 per cent of traction current comes from renewable sources,” said Flege. “But they are being politically disadvantaged: the burden from taxes and levies is increasing faster than for other modes of transport.”

Freight transport in particular, he said, had contributed to the increase in emissions, and this was where the need to act was now most acute: “Rail freight especially has been fighting for years against many competitive disadvantages. Whereas road freight transport has become increasingly cheaper – for example due to the reduction in road charges on HGVs – rail freight trains can now barely operate cost-effectively.”

Total emissions

The Germany Environment Agency’s (UBA) Climate Change report found that Germany recorded total emissions of 901.9 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents for 2015, which is 2.3 million tonnes (0.3 per cent) less than in 2014, and down 27.9 per cent from 1990. The data is based on calculations provided by the UBA to the European Commission.

In contrast, transport sector emissions, which are included in the figure for the energy sector, rose slightly again. The sector’s 160.8 million tonnes GHG emissions for 2015 equal nearly 0.7 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents more than the previous year.

Transformation

Maria Krautzberger, President of the UBA, said: “The transformation of the energy system is showing signs of working. More and more electricity is based on solar, wind or hydropower and less on coal or oil. The steady decline in emissions is proof, but we have to stay on task. The numbers show that transport emissions can only decrease if we give electric mobility a chance.”

Dirk Flege added: “Transport minister Dobrindt should know that freight shippers will always try to find the most favourable prices. If the German government is serious about its own climate targets, then it must strengthen the railways. A fifty per cent reduction in track access charges would be a good start.”

“When it comes to climate protection, transport is politicians’ biggest worry. The increase in emissions is unfortunately home-made: road transport is regularly given preferential treatment by the transport minister. Even now, faced with the current diesel affair, minister Dobrindt has both eyes firmly shut. Only by rigorously shifting transport from the roads to the railways will the federal government be able to meet its own targets on climate protection.”

Author: Simon Weedy

Simon is a journalist for RailFreight.com - a dedicated online platform for all the news about the rail freight sector

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