Rail freight growth targets too ambitious warns German transport association

The Association of German Transport Companies (VDV) warned that the growth goals set for rail freight in the country might prove to be too ambitious. A market share of 25 per cent by 2030 might be difficult to reach since factors like infrastructure works, energy prices and personnel shortages could hinder further development.

“The bottom line is that rail freight transport has come through the Corona crisis relatively unscathed so far. The industry currently has better numbers than before the pandemic. Nevertheless, these are still not enough for the necessary growth and for achieving the climate protection goals for 2030,” underlined Oliver Wolff, VDV general manager.

A necessary evil

The German railway network currently has to deal with many bottlenecks resulting from construction works. “Capacity bottlenecks due to construction work are annoying but necessary”, said VDV. The association acknowledges that upgrades and expansion in the railway network are necessary and could contribute to rail freight growth.

Nevertheless, it’s the capacity management during the construction phases that proves to be problematic. “The increased number of construction sites is an excellent sign that progress is being made in the country, that we are modernising, expanding and digitising routes. Nevertheless, we also need more stable networks during construction phases, even if this increases the financial outlay. After all, rail must be a reliable mode of transport even during construction work”, explained Wolff.

Energy and personnel

On the other hand, the skyrocketing energy prices concerning electricity and diesel are also growing concerns around the feasibility of growth targets. High electricity prices have been around for a few months now, and a number of companies have expressed fears on how they could decrease rail freight’s market share. “High energy prices will not affect everyone equally, but we have to be very concerned about individual railway companies in all areas”, said Wolff. At the same time, he also urged the German federal government to intervene and alleviate the situation.

Finally, a problem not so common for rail freight companies is that of personnel scarcity. “The structural bottlenecks among skilled workers in both freight and passenger rail for local and long-distance transport are becoming increasingly clear”, underlined Wolff. This is partially due to the Corona pandemic that forces workers to abstain from work. However, it’s also a long-term matter concerning multiple functions that lack sufficient staffing. “We are looking in all areas, especially in driving operations, but also in the commercial-technical area. We advertise for engineers, and we recruit IT specialists, we would like to train and hire many more”, concluded Wolff.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is editor of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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