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BERLIN: January 09, 2018. German railway operators have welcomed a decision by the federal government to allow more 740-meter trains to operate. Currently only 11 percent of Germany's rail network can handle the longer size.

The federal Transport Ministry says the cost of rail upgrades to remove network bottlenecks will be 405 million euro and result in a cost benefit of 4.8:1.

The heads of DB Cargo, SBB Cargo International, the Havelland Railway, the Port of Hamburg Railway and Lokomotion Rail say there is now a great opportunity to move freight from road to railways.

740-meter railPort of Hamburg head of Railway Infrastructure & Railcar Services Harald Kreft said unrestricted access to the European standard 740-meter trains would boost significantly the efficiency of trains operating between Hamburg's port and its hinterland.

"For combined transport, this will mean between and eight and 12 containers more per train. This additional productivity boost will benefit all participants in the logistics chain, as well as – last but not least – the environment," he added.

Michail Stahlhut, chairman of SBB Cargo International, said the German network bottlenecks have been a restriction on the development of European rail freight transport but the planned upgrades are just a first step: "The interruptions at Rastatt have shown us that our infrastructures need to urgently become more international. This will only happen if the infrastructure is managed centrally. Rail freight transport is European and the management of the infrastructure must also become European. We are calling for interoperability along the entire corridor," he continued.

The managing director of Trans-Alpine freight specialists Lokomotion Rail thinks the 740-metre network will lead to even longer trains: "Expanding the 740-metre network is absolutely fundamental to the future sustainability of rail freight transport," said Armin Riedl. "Going forward, this discussion can only be a step towards further increases in train length to 900 meters or more. From a technical point of view, wagons and locomotives are capable of this without any problems. It is only the infrastructure that hinders us from realizing these efficiency gains."

According to the lobby group German Pro-Rail Alliance, the country needs to move quickly to catch up with some of its neighbors. Managing director Dirk Flege noted: "We need centralized planning approval for the railways. Denmark operates 835-metres trains and France is planning for 1,000-metre trains from 2018.

The EU Commission says all routes on Europe's core rail networks should allow trains to operate with a length of at least 740 meters by 2030.

"The [new federal] measures will greatly benefit the economy and the environment, and are not difficult to implement. It often only involves moving signals and extending passing loops," Flege added.

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