• European Freight - Precise or a "Joke"

  • Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.
Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.

Moderators: Komachi, David Benton

  by Gilbert B Norman
From Pitter Hotel Salzburg--

I'm over here now and have had opportunity to observe freight trains both in Germany (Bavaria) and in Austria.

To me, freight trains here are a joke - thirty cars single level containers. However several disagree noting how they are scheduled just are the passenger trains.

I've asked if discussion of this topic be moved over, and I hope the Administrators will agree and move accordingly.
  by GeorgeR
The maximum permitted length of freight trains in Germany is 2420 feet (740 meters) or 2740 feet (835 meters) on a few routes, and 82 cars, whatever is reached first. Austria limits trains to 2460 feet (750 meters).

Yet especially in mountainous terrain, many trains are shorter than that, considering limitations in infrastructure, grades and especially the need to "swim" with the passenger trains. Freight train speeds (though not necessarily overall origin-to-destination speed) are quite high, with most scheduled at 62 mph (100 km/h) and many intermodal trains at 74.5 mph (120 km/h).

In Northern Germany, there have been trials to regularly run trains with a length of 4920 feet (1500 meters), but so far the achieveable economic benefits have not been that great. These lengths also scratch at the limits of the European chain couplers which have a much lower load limit than janney couplers.
  by Gilbert B Norman
From Pitter Hotel Salzburg---

I guess what amazes me, Mr. George R, considering the limits you immediately note, is how do the private sector operators make any €€€ using government owned ROW's.

Do they somehow pull off what could be called, in the US, is a "Taking without just compensation", which I have noted around here, is what Amtrak pulls off, or are they relying on how expensive motor fuel is ($7.17ga for Premium, when I checked a day or two ago) to keep that business off the highways?

I've shown photos of UP trains to OBB railroaders over here - and, absent having "been over" to see it first hand, are simply astounded.
  by GeorgeR
All operators have to pay to use the infrastructure - which includes the federal operators in Germany and Austria, whose freight business is expected to pay itself, i. e. does not receive federal funds.

The fees to use the infrastructure are variable, depending on a lot of factors, including train weight, train speed, regular runs vs. one-time runs, "early orders" vs. short-term bookings, the routing (congested areas are more expensive), etc. - resulting in something between 2.92 and 9.97 Euros per train kilometer, 5.5 to 19 Dollars per train mile. DB Netz, the state owned body which holds most German rail infrastructure, has a website where one can calculate access charges: https://trassenfinder.de/ - whereby, for example, a 1500 ton freight train from Munich to Hamburg would cost me 3.59 Dollars a mile right now.

While there are a few select routes where rail competes with road haulage in speed, the primary factor is cost. The access charges are not a real issue there, since they are - despite all the complexity - a known factor and not too far from the road access charges. Other productions costs can be much higher and/or harder to calculate. For example, parts of Germany's rail system are notoriously congested, for example the rhine valley routes. Organizing international traffic is complex, for both technical (e. g. different train protection systems) and organizational reasons (different regulations), resulting in a lot of potential coordination issues. Train operating staff is not cheap and, especially in recent years, hard to come by, etc...

This all results in the situation that the private operators usually do quite well, the federal German and Austrian freight operators somewhat less so (mostly because they not only run unit trains, but also operate the wagonload network) - but at the same time, ton kilometers/miles are hardly rising and rail freight's modal share is thus, at best, stagnant.
  by kato
GeorgeR wrote: Sun Aug 08, 2021 1:55 pm The maximum permitted length of freight trains in Germany is 2420 feet (740 meters) or 2740 feet (835 meters) on a few routes, and 82 cars, whatever is reached first. Austria limits trains to 2460 feet (750 meters).
To add to that: There is a European-Union-level effort to improve infrastructure to allow (minimum) 750m freight trains to operate on a core network of about 15,000 km spanning Europe by 2030 (TEN-T).
  by David Benton
I'm not sure what "precise" has to do with train length.
bigger is not necessarily better .
The USA railroads cannot even try to compete over similar distances.
In both cases , the true barrier to competing is the cost of the inter modal transfer, and switching / marshaling costs . In this case smaller trains running direct at least decrease the switching costs/ time.
Both can be automated to a degree , and then Railways/ Railroads can compete. The cost of running the trains is not as big a factor , though the European trains would be single manned , of course.