ANALYSIS

Why rail sidings can transform German rail freight

Photo: Pixabay. István Károly Bőcs

The discussion around Germany’s carbon neutrality and modal shift to rail intensifies. Currently, the public discourse involving transport associations and governmental plans focuses on how rail sidings could help companies use more rail and provide capacity for more freight trains. Some countries, like Spain, have been following the same approach. Will it also work for Germany?

The restructuring of the German railway network is slower than expected, says VDV-the association of German transport companies. However, there is a strong trend with businesses willing to use rail in their supply chains, underlines VDV’s vice president Joachim Berends. An effective way for companies to shift to rail fast and efficiently is by building new or reopening disused rail sidings that will provide them direct access to the main railway network.

Why are rail sidings important?

Rail sidings are the gateway for businesses to the railway network. Be it a warehouse, a factory or even an energy production plant, companies that have strong supply chains need dedicated rail lines to receive or send out cargo. The former German federal transport minister Andreas Scheuer had highlighted the importance of sidings in the past: “the shorter and easier the route to the rail, the more likely companies are to transport their goods by rail. With a siding right in front of the door or a loading station nearby, the decision is easier,” he stressed in the past.

Also, Sigrid Nikutta, DB’s executive for freight transport, has underlined that for companies or municipalities who want to get into rail logistics, a siding for a workshop or industrial park is the right way to go. In fact, DB is eager to help companies find their way around rail sidings, and it did so almost a year ago.

Specifically, DB Cargo reactivated a 300-metre-long siding belonging to Autoverwertung Möck (AV Möck), a waste disposal specialist company in Tübingen, Germany. The siding was in disuse since 2014, but with DB, AV Möck managed to put its cargo back on rail wagons again. “Without rail freight, there’s no way we could ever become climate neutral, and that goes for our home city of Tübingen, too,” stressed back then Marie Möck, responsible for controls in the disposal specialist company.

AV Möck’s rail siding. Photo: DB Cargo. © Thomas Klink.

Is there a plan?

DB and AV Möck’s story is a sufficient example of how rail sidings can help companies make their supply chain greener. It also shows that no matter the industry, there is always space for more rail. However, private initiatives like the one mentioned here are not enough. Does Germany have central planning on this matter?

The answer is yes. The former and current German federal governments had positioned rail on top of their agendas, and sidings were not missing. Since 2017, when the German rail freight masterplan was deployed, rail sidings and their funding would be paramount to growing rail freight in the country.

The masterplan explicitly mentioned that “​​the rail freight sector is to have […] direct nationwide access to points of origin and final destinations of traffic via private sidings,” “industrial and logistics sites that generate a high volume of freight should have a private siding,” and that “single wagonload services first require that a site be made spatially accessible by rail and that a private siding is in place.”

Marshalling Yard in Germany. Source: mirokola/Pixabay
Marshalling Yard in Germany. Photo: Pixabay. © mirokola.

Additionally, it highlighted that funding “combined transport terminals and private sidings” and “multimodal facilities as access points to the single wagonload services including private sidings” should be a permanent task for the federal government and the federal transport of ministry, respectively.

The coalition government, elected in November 2021, also pledged to provide more investment incentives for train sidings. Yet, despite plans and promises, the German rail freight sector does not see many such projects implemented.

The sector’s response

VDV has invested a lot in lobbying the importance of promoting and incentivising rail sidings. The association has compiled a charter for this purpose since “despite the desire for more rail and a federal siding subsidy program, the number of sidings in Germany is falling yearly”. To contribute to rail freight traffic growth, railway network “access points for customers must be significantly strengthened,” adds VDV.

More particularly, VDV claims that, among others, “sufficient sidings and customer-oriented access points should be available to shift traffic and to relieve the regional/municipal areas of ​​road freight traffic”. For this purpose, the association has compiled some critical steps that the German government should take to meet its initial goals and improve them.

Those steps are not complicated but indicate that the German government could have a more practical and direct approach to the matter. For instance, reducing bureaucracy, simplifying regulations and improving rail siding subsidies could be a good first step. Additionally, it demands a reduced cost to connect to the public grid. The government could also achieve this via better subsidies. Moreover, the proximity of rail sidings to customers and commercial areas is also crucial. At the same time, new transport concepts that include rail and better last/first mile solutions could also help companies increase their interest towards their sidings and shift to rail.

Are those demands realistic?

At first glance, VDV does not ask much. As mentioned, the proposed measures are essential and mainly focus on incentivising companies to consider using rail and facilitate even more the ones that already do.
After all, for a country like Germany, where rail freight is an integral part of the economy, rail sidings all over the country should be a top priority. Even if the federal government decides to take the next step and reapproach the sidings matter, it will not be the first in Europe to do so. A few months ago, Adif, the Spanish infrastructure manager, launched a project that could be a good case study for Germany. And if Spain can do that, why not also Germany?

In particular, Adif launched a rail sidings extension project in multiple rail freight stations in Spain last May. The purpose is to extend sidings to 750 metres and provide more space for efficient rail freight operations according to national and international standards. The project might not particularly concern private sidings, but it indicates their importance in growing rail freight volumes in general. Extending existing and building new sidings in crucial nodes surrounded by logistical areas was Spain’s first step to incentivise companies to use more rail.

For Germany, things could be even easier. The governmental will and funding are there, the rail freight sector’s will and technical knowledge are also there, and the same applies to customers’ demand for better accessibility. What is missing is better coordination and a more open approach to utilising resources and funding better. These could be the ingredients for a German success to be followed by others.

Also read:

You just read one of our premium articles free of charge

Want full access? Take advantage of our exclusive offer

See the offer

Author: Nikos Papatolios

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

1 comment op “Why rail sidings can transform German rail freight”

bönström bönström|08.10.22|13:14

Even worse, infrastructure capacity now is hampered by System. (“Tara” of existing standard has turned devastatingly high…)
All other devices, decisively upgrade, primarily for lower costs!…
Simply, by added load capacity, several advantages are gained. Repairing, (“maintenance”) now devastatingly costly is reduced.
Resilency, robustness – and utilisation sustainably is added, etc.
It is 2022 now and low risk, safe “eta” is a must – at all supply chains!

Add your comment

characters remaining.

Log in through one of the following social media partners to comment.

Why rail sidings can transform German rail freight | RailFreight.com
ANALYSIS

Why rail sidings can transform German rail freight

Photo: Pixabay. István Károly Bőcs

The discussion around Germany’s carbon neutrality and modal shift to rail intensifies. Currently, the public discourse involving transport associations and governmental plans focuses on how rail sidings could help companies use more rail and provide capacity for more freight trains. Some countries, like Spain, have been following the same approach. Will it also work for Germany?

The restructuring of the German railway network is slower than expected, says VDV-the association of German transport companies. However, there is a strong trend with businesses willing to use rail in their supply chains, underlines VDV’s vice president Joachim Berends. An effective way for companies to shift to rail fast and efficiently is by building new or reopening disused rail sidings that will provide them direct access to the main railway network.

Why are rail sidings important?

Rail sidings are the gateway for businesses to the railway network. Be it a warehouse, a factory or even an energy production plant, companies that have strong supply chains need dedicated rail lines to receive or send out cargo. The former German federal transport minister Andreas Scheuer had highlighted the importance of sidings in the past: “the shorter and easier the route to the rail, the more likely companies are to transport their goods by rail. With a siding right in front of the door or a loading station nearby, the decision is easier,” he stressed in the past.

Also, Sigrid Nikutta, DB’s executive for freight transport, has underlined that for companies or municipalities who want to get into rail logistics, a siding for a workshop or industrial park is the right way to go. In fact, DB is eager to help companies find their way around rail sidings, and it did so almost a year ago.

Specifically, DB Cargo reactivated a 300-metre-long siding belonging to Autoverwertung Möck (AV Möck), a waste disposal specialist company in Tübingen, Germany. The siding was in disuse since 2014, but with DB, AV Möck managed to put its cargo back on rail wagons again. “Without rail freight, there’s no way we could ever become climate neutral, and that goes for our home city of Tübingen, too,” stressed back then Marie Möck, responsible for controls in the disposal specialist company.

AV Möck’s rail siding. Photo: DB Cargo. © Thomas Klink.

Is there a plan?

DB and AV Möck’s story is a sufficient example of how rail sidings can help companies make their supply chain greener. It also shows that no matter the industry, there is always space for more rail. However, private initiatives like the one mentioned here are not enough. Does Germany have central planning on this matter?

The answer is yes. The former and current German federal governments had positioned rail on top of their agendas, and sidings were not missing. Since 2017, when the German rail freight masterplan was deployed, rail sidings and their funding would be paramount to growing rail freight in the country.

The masterplan explicitly mentioned that “​​the rail freight sector is to have […] direct nationwide access to points of origin and final destinations of traffic via private sidings,” “industrial and logistics sites that generate a high volume of freight should have a private siding,” and that “single wagonload services first require that a site be made spatially accessible by rail and that a private siding is in place.”

Marshalling Yard in Germany. Source: mirokola/Pixabay
Marshalling Yard in Germany. Photo: Pixabay. © mirokola.

Additionally, it highlighted that funding “combined transport terminals and private sidings” and “multimodal facilities as access points to the single wagonload services including private sidings” should be a permanent task for the federal government and the federal transport of ministry, respectively.

The coalition government, elected in November 2021, also pledged to provide more investment incentives for train sidings. Yet, despite plans and promises, the German rail freight sector does not see many such projects implemented.

The sector’s response

VDV has invested a lot in lobbying the importance of promoting and incentivising rail sidings. The association has compiled a charter for this purpose since “despite the desire for more rail and a federal siding subsidy program, the number of sidings in Germany is falling yearly”. To contribute to rail freight traffic growth, railway network “access points for customers must be significantly strengthened,” adds VDV.

More particularly, VDV claims that, among others, “sufficient sidings and customer-oriented access points should be available to shift traffic and to relieve the regional/municipal areas of ​​road freight traffic”. For this purpose, the association has compiled some critical steps that the German government should take to meet its initial goals and improve them.

Those steps are not complicated but indicate that the German government could have a more practical and direct approach to the matter. For instance, reducing bureaucracy, simplifying regulations and improving rail siding subsidies could be a good first step. Additionally, it demands a reduced cost to connect to the public grid. The government could also achieve this via better subsidies. Moreover, the proximity of rail sidings to customers and commercial areas is also crucial. At the same time, new transport concepts that include rail and better last/first mile solutions could also help companies increase their interest towards their sidings and shift to rail.

Are those demands realistic?

At first glance, VDV does not ask much. As mentioned, the proposed measures are essential and mainly focus on incentivising companies to consider using rail and facilitate even more the ones that already do.
After all, for a country like Germany, where rail freight is an integral part of the economy, rail sidings all over the country should be a top priority. Even if the federal government decides to take the next step and reapproach the sidings matter, it will not be the first in Europe to do so. A few months ago, Adif, the Spanish infrastructure manager, launched a project that could be a good case study for Germany. And if Spain can do that, why not also Germany?

In particular, Adif launched a rail sidings extension project in multiple rail freight stations in Spain last May. The purpose is to extend sidings to 750 metres and provide more space for efficient rail freight operations according to national and international standards. The project might not particularly concern private sidings, but it indicates their importance in growing rail freight volumes in general. Extending existing and building new sidings in crucial nodes surrounded by logistical areas was Spain’s first step to incentivise companies to use more rail.

For Germany, things could be even easier. The governmental will and funding are there, the rail freight sector’s will and technical knowledge are also there, and the same applies to customers’ demand for better accessibility. What is missing is better coordination and a more open approach to utilising resources and funding better. These could be the ingredients for a German success to be followed by others.

Also read:

You just read one of our premium articles free of charge

Want full access? Take advantage of our exclusive offer

See the offer

Author: Nikos Papatolios

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

1 comment op “Why rail sidings can transform German rail freight”

bönström bönström|08.10.22|13:14

Even worse, infrastructure capacity now is hampered by System. (“Tara” of existing standard has turned devastatingly high…)
All other devices, decisively upgrade, primarily for lower costs!…
Simply, by added load capacity, several advantages are gained. Repairing, (“maintenance”) now devastatingly costly is reduced.
Resilency, robustness – and utilisation sustainably is added, etc.
It is 2022 now and low risk, safe “eta” is a must – at all supply chains!

Add your comment

characters remaining.

Log in through one of the following social media partners to comment.