Rhine-Alpine News

Rising sea levels: Rotterdam takes action

Maeslant barrier, port of Rotterdam

The Port of Rotterdam Authority and the Municipality of Rotterdam have reached agreements on how to sustain flood risk management in the port and industrial area in light of the rise in sea level during the course of this century. These agreements stem partly from the Port Authority and the municipality’s involvement in the Rijnmond-Drechtsteden Delta Programme.

The port areas are currently safe from high water levels. They were constructed three to six metres above sea level and are partially protected by storm surge barriers. Read the news here (external link).

Duisport Joins CargoBeamer to Shift More Non-Craneable Trailers to Rail

Moving a non-craneable trailer (Photo: Duisport / DWS)

Duisburger Hafen AG (duisport) has acquired a stake in the rail technology company CargoBeamer AG which is based in Leipzig, Germany. Both companies are jointly committed to shift road freight traffic towards rail thanks to innovative logistics concepts. The fully automatic system of CargoBeamer is primarily used for transporting all kinds of craneable and non-craneable semi-trailers by rail. It consists of special railway cars and handling terminals. During loading and unloading the semi-trailers are driven and parked in specific pallets, which are then shifted horizontally and fully automatically into the waiting train.

While containers are craneable and thus can easily be loaded on rail, this is not the case for the huge majority of semi-trailers: Europe-wide, far less than 10% of them are craneable. All others are usually excluded from using unaccompanied combined transport. This is the huge potential that CargoBeamer is aiming at. Read the whole news here (external link).

„Multimodality“ Workshop by EGTC Rhine-Alpine

The EGTC organises a workshop within the project “Grün und Multimodal im Rhein-Alpen-Korridor”, funded by the Land of Baden-Württemberg. In this workshop, we want to discuss with manufacturing industry (SMEs) and the regional logistics industry the potential and concrete practical implementation in order to show perspectives and at the same time to learn from the economy how this support can be made even more efficient with public funds. The workshop takes place on 10 March 2021, 10:00-12:00 in German language. Registration and agenda are available here.

Friday 5 March: Next Rhine-Alpine Talks

“Rhine-Alpine Talks” #7 will take place on 5 March 2021, 11:00 – 12:30 with the topic Overcoming Obstacles to Cross-Border Long-Distance Passenger Rail in 2021 – Time to Act in the Year of the Rail”. After a reduction of Euro-City trains and the almost complete disappearance of night trains some years ago, international trains have become more numerous again though at a lower level than before.

What does this mean for the Rhine-Alpine Corridor? More high-speed rail, or a mix of high speed and conventional rail? How to accelerate the implementation of an integrated timetable? What other measures can make transport more rail-friendly and more user-friendly? This includes railway stations as important interfaces.

Please find agenda and registration here!

Rhine-Alpine News

New Schierstein Bridge Nearing Completion

Schiersteiner Brücke (Wikimedia CC, Kandschwar)

The Autobahn bridge of Schierstein from 1962, a main connection between the German state capitals of Wiesbaden and Mainz across the Rhine, has since its opening had its traffic grow manifold, with heavier axle loads. This caused deteriorating conditions and resulted in traffic restrictions and even a temporary closure, creating a major bottleneck. Construction of a new 6-lane bridge is now nearing finalization, with the last segment recently put into place. Read more details here (external link, German language).

Frankfurt Region: „Schienencoach“ Supports Rail Transport

Rail transport for people and goods is a backbone of Frankfurt Region’s mobility strategy. A new measure for strengthening rail across the region is the implementation of a “rail coach”: This person supports businesses and local administrations in their efforts to improve rail transport. In detail, the “rail coach” will help to reactivate regional railway lines and stations. In goods transport, he will support the construction or reactivation of loading tracks. He knows how to access the available subsidies and he does first assessments of suggested rail projects.

The new coach, Michael Roggenkamp, is a senior rail manager. He has built up and supported private rail companies since the German rail reform of the nineties. “I want to simplify the rail system for the regional actors”, he says about his new job. Find the whole news here (external link, German language).

In a parallel development, the recent Goods Mobility Concept (“Güterverkehrskonzept”) for Baden-Württemberg State, which is located south of Frankfurt Region, also suggests a very similar position as a promising measure for supporting rail freight.

„Multimodality“ Workshop by EGTC Rhine-Alpine

Multimodal train (Photo: Deutsche Bahn AG)

The EGTC organises a workshop within the project “Grün und Multimodal im Rhein-Alpen-Korridor”, funded by the Land of Baden-Württemberg. In this workshop, we want to discuss with manufacturing industry (SMEs) and the regional logistics industry the potential and concrete practical implementation in order to show perspectives and at the same time to learn from the economy how this support can be made even more efficient with public funds. The workshop takes place on 10 March 2021, 10:00-12:00 in German language. Registration and agenda are available here.

Next Rhine-Alpine Talks

“Rhine-Alpine Talks” #7 will take place on 5 March 2021, 11:00 – 12:30 with the topic Overcoming Obstacles to Cross-Border Long-Distance Passenger Rail in 2021 – Time to Act in the Year of the Rail”. After a reduction of Euro-City trains and the almost complete disappearance of night trains some years ago, international trains have become more numerous again though at a lower level than before.

What does this mean for the Rhine-Alpine Corridor? More high-speed rail, or a mix of high speed and conventional rail? How to accelerate the implementation of an integrated timetable? What other measures can make transport more rail-friendly and more user-friendly? This includes railway stations as important interfaces.

Please find agenda and registration here!

Rhine-Alpine News

Ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge to Join Forces

Illustration: Ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge

Antwerp/Bruges, 12 February 2021: The City of Antwerp and the City of Bruges have reached an agreement to merge their respective ports. The two-city agreement marks the start of a unification process that is expected to take a year to finalise. Once completed, the ports will operate under the name ‘Port of Antwerp-Bruges’. As a result of the merger, the ports will be able to strengthen their position within the global supply chain and continue their course towards sustainable growth. Furthermore, the unified port will be more resilient to the challenges of the future and will take a lead in the transition towards a low-carbon economy.

The shared position of the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge within the global supply chain will receive a significant boost. The merged port will become the most important container port (157 million tonnes/year), one of the largest break bulk ports and the largest port for the transhipment of vehicles in Europe. Furthermore, the port will account for more than 15% of Europe’s liquid natural gas transited and it will of course remain Europe’s most important chemical hub. Finally, it will be the largest port for cruise ships in the Benelux. With a total transit capacity of 278 million tonnes per year, the unified port will be able to consolidate its leading position in the world.

Read the joint statement of both ports here (external link).

News Service Featuring Rhine-Alpine Corridor Topics

The RailFreight channel’s weekly newsreel featured two “hot” topics of the Rhine-Alpine corridor last Friday: First, the winter weather in the north of the corridor, with interviews made on the spot about the rather difficult traffic situation. Second, the importance of last December’s opening of the Ceneri tunnel on the Gotthard line, connecting Italy to the north, in the view of Swiss intermodal operator Hupac. Here is the (external) link.

Duisport Closes the Year 2020 on a Successful Note

Photo: © Hans Blossey

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, container handling at duisport in 2020 grew by 5 percent to 4.2 million TEU (previous year: 4.0 million), which is a new record. With a share of around 55 percent, container handling is the most important duisport goods segment. Overall, the duisport Group handled almost 59 million tonnes in the year 2020, based on an initial analysis. That is 3 percent less than in the previous year. (2019: 61.1 million tonnes). The drop is due to the political move away from coal handling.

Particularly rail-based freight traffic with China grew by approximately 70 percent during the past financial year. In 2019, an average of 35 to 40 trains traveled between Duisburg and various destinations in China. As of the second quarter of 2020, the Port of Duisburg registered an increase to up to 60 trains a week. Developments in eastern Europe are also very positive. Expanded connections to Poland in the trailer business have made a significant contribution to continued growth for a number of years already.

Read the detailed press release here (external link).

Rhine-Alpine News

The Novara Intermodal Center Focuses on Upgrading Infrastructures

Photo: Cim, Novara

With 400 trucks and 24 freight trains per day, the Intermodal Center of Novara (Cim) is at the heart of the European connections: 190,000 semi-trailers leave Cim every year, carrying goods to Rotterdam and Hamburg, to Paris and to the great ports of the Mediterranean and Asia. Novara is located in Piedmont region, west of Milan.

Intermodal operator Hupac recently entered Cim as the major shareholder, finalizing the corporate privatization process. For Cim is time to look at the future opportunities: the priority is to strengthen intermodality, investing in more efficient and modern infrastructures. 6 million euros will be allocated to triple the entrance tracks, making the entry and exit of trains easier and faster.

Winter Weather Impact on Corridor Traffic

Symbolic photo: DB Netz 

Unusually heavy snowfall, together with storms and resulting snowdrift, have affected life in the Netherlands and northern Germany. North of Cologne, rail traffic temporarily came to a halt during the past days. It is still severely affected. Many local connections and most long distance passenger rail services are not operating.

In the Netherlands, the port of Rotterdam communicates that goods traffic by road and rail was heavily disrupted on Sunday and Monday. But from Tuesday it is basically back to normal, and so is terminal operation. However, passenger transport remains limited. Here is a blog with some great winter photos, by Dutch infrastructure operator prorail (external link).

The current winter flood on the Rhine has passed its peak, and shipping will soon be resumed on its whole length.

Rhine-Alpine Talks with Record Participation

The EGTC Rhine-Alpine held its first 2021 “Rhine-Alpine Talks” on 5 February, with a record one hundred participants. The topic was “New EU Funding Programmes – Opportunities for Corridor Development“.

Paweł Wojciechowski, EU Coordinator for the Rhine-Alpine Corridor, spoke on the role and importance of EU funding for corridor development, before the current planning of the funding programmes Horizon Europe, Interreg North-West Europe and CEF Transport were presented to the participants.

Here you can find the presentations for download:

Siegfried Rupprecht (Rupprecht Consult): The Horizon Europe Framework Programme

Mathieu Mori (Interreg North-West Europe): Next Interreg NWE Programme in the making

Daniel von Hugo (Innovation and Networks Executive Agency INEA): Connecting Europe Facility 2021 -2027, Transport

The next Rhine-Alpine Talks will be held on 5 March, dealing with long-distance passenger services along the Rhine-Alpine Corridor.

Rhine-Alpine News

Port of Antwerp: Evaluation of Hinterland Transport 2020

Photo: Port of Antwerp

Tom Verlinden (Mobility Manager Port of Antwerp): “At Port of Antwerp, everything we do revolves around the idea of BRaiNS. That is something we devoted a lot of energy to this past year. BRaiNS stands for Barge, Rail, Night logistics and Shortsea.”

Because of the lockdown and the quieter conditions on the roads, there was less of a need to get rid of trucks, so the port of Antwerp didn’t witness any major shift. But the figures remain stable: those who already made the switch are satisfied with their choice. Read the full statement here (external link).

TEN-Revision Process: Statement from the Interregional Alliance for the Rhine-Alpine Corridor EGTC

The TEN-T approach has facilitated to shape the European infrastructure development tremendously. As one of nine Core Network Corridors, the Rhine-Alpine Corridor constitutes a very important backbone of the TEN-T network. In order to support the positive continuation of this policy, the „Interregional Alliance for the Rhine-Alpine Corridor EGTC” likes to share its view for the future of the TEN-T. The EGTC’s strategy “One Corridor – One Strategy” focuses on five development priorities: Optimize the network, procedures and the cooperation of key players. Raise capacity. Repair spaces and ensure sustainability. Accelerate speed. Ensure acceptance.

The detailed recommendations (which can be downloaded here) include:

1.) Implementing the network and quality of infrastructure

2.) Create a more resilient transport system

3.) Increasing multi-/synchromodality

4.) Integration with Green Deal, Energy and Digital Transition

5.) The EGTC Rhine-Alpine as a governance example for other corridors.

Water Level Blocks Traffic on Upper and Middle Rhine

Rheinaue wetlands flooded (symbolic photo, CC qwesy)

A flood wave currently moves down the Rhine, causing local inundation. River transport is temporarily suspended along much of middle and upper Rhine. However, this appears to be just a typical winter flood. On the lower Rhine, for the foreseeable future the water levels will remain well below the mark that would restrict shipping. See the level at Duisburg-Ruhrort as an example (external link, German language).

Online Events

Eurodelta Corridor Summit, 4 February 2021

The Corridor Summit offers a platform were governments, policymakers, entrepreneurs, ports, transporters and scientists work together to make the corridors in the Eurodelta seamless and borderless. The Corridor Summit will be an international stage to share results of cross-border collaborations, address the challenges towards a multimodal and sustainable corridor approach in the Eurodelta and look ahead to 2021 as the first year of the new multiannual budget period of the European Union. Which steps should be taken? Which results need to be in our common perspective? Read the agenda and register here (external link).

Rhine-Alpine Talks, 5 February 2021

We have decided to continue our successful series of the “Rhine-Alpine Talks” also in 2021. That is why we are delighted to invite you to our first “Talks” in the new year which will take place on 5 February 2021, from 11:00 – 12:30 h. We have chosen a current topic in order to inform you about the chances of financing your projects related to corridor development: “New EU Funding Programmes: New Opportunities for Corridor Development”. Become part of the corridor community and register here for this meeting!

Rhine-Alpine News

New Tanker Design for Low Water on Rhine

BASF presents innovative tanker for low water on the Rhine. Illustration: Technolog

BASF in Ludwigshafen has ordered a new tanker, to operate on the Rhine from late 2022. It will be one of the largest tankers on the Rhine and is specifically built for navigation when the Rhine is at low water. It will still be able to pass the critical point in the Rhine near Kaub with a cargo of 650 tonnes even at a water level of 30 centimetres (corresponds to a water depth of 1.60 metres), which is significantly more than any other tanker available today. At average low water level, its transport capacity is around 2500 tonnes, twice that of conventional inland vessels.

Typical cargo ships on the Rhine are built to fit the lock dimensions along the tributary rivers and canals. They therefore are narrow and have considerable draught. The new tanker will be significantly wider, since locks are not an issue along its route. Read the news here (external link).

New Corridor Service via Ceneri Tunnel

A new intermodal freight transport service between Bologna and Köln has been inaugurated on 11 January 2021 thanks to an agreement between Arcese and Tx Logistics, a company of Mercitalia group.

The German region of Ruhr and Northern as well as Central Italy are now directly linked via the Rhine-Alpine Corridor through the new Swiss Ceneri base tunnel. The service runs 5 times per week, allowing a transit time of less than 20 hours and the handling of up to 15,000 large volume semi-trailers (P400) per year.

Saving approximately 86% of CO₂, compared to road transport for each single segment, this new service undoubtedly encourages the modal shift from road to rail and responds to the growing demand for increasingly sustainable solutions for the environment.

Rastatt Tunnel Construction Delayed

New Rastatt tunnel. Illustration: DB Netz AG

Three years ago, the construction of the new additional double track rail line along the Upper Rhine was halted at Rastatt by the collapse of the tunnel construction site under the existing railway line. Deutsche Bahn had announced to restart the construction work last November, which apparently did not happen. The German Vice Minister of Transport, Steffen Bilger, asked Deutsche Bahn about the reasons:

Deutsche Bahn still tests the structure of the ground, which apparently is more complex than expected. The work at the tunnel cannot be resumed before this research has been finalized, for which at the moment there is no date. So far, the tunnel was expected to open in late 2025, which now appears unlikely.

NB: Rhine-Alpine Talks

We have decided to continue our successful series of the “Rhine-Alpine Talks” also in 2021. That is why we are delighted to invite you to our first “Talks” in the new year which will take place on 5 February 2021, from 11:00 – 12:30 h. We have chosen a current topic in order to inform you about the chances of financing your projects related to corridor development: “New EU Funding Programmes: New Opportunities for Corridor Development”. Become part of the corridor community and register here for this meeting!

Rhine-Alpine News

Rotterdam: Rail Tunnel Repaired

Work on Willemsspoortunnel (Photo: prorail)

The Rotterdam Willemsspoortunnel of the main line to Breda and on to Brussels is now almost thirty years old. In the past months, one of the tracks was thoroughly renovated. The tunnel now is open to traffic without restrictions. However, in the coming years the remaining track will also need upgrading. Read more about this here (external link, Dutch language).

SBB: Impact of Covid-19 on Passenger Transport

(c) SBB CFF FFS, see links below for French and Italian versions

Swiss rail operator SBB has published figures about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on passenger volume in 2020. For long distance traffic, comparison with 2019 shows a decrease of up to 80% in spring and quite some recovery during summer. Towards the end of 2020, figures stand at roughly 50% of 2019. In regional transport, the decrease was a little less; towards the end of 2019 figures stood at about 60% of 2019.

SBB is the largest rail operator in Switzerland. Its figures therefore represent the situation in Switzerland as a whole. They may also give a good order of magnitude for the situation in other segments of the Rhine-Alpine corridor.

Find the whole news here in German, French and Italian language (external links).

DB Punctuality in 2020 Much Better Than in Previous Years

Photo: Deutsche Bahn

Punctuality of German rail operator Deutsche Bahn’s trains sharply improved in 2020, compared to previous years. In long distance traffic, the share of trains running on time grew from 75.9 in 2019 to 81.8 %, a level not reached in any of the previous 15 years. Deutsche Bahn by its own standards lists an arrival as punctual if it is less than six minutes behind schedule.

Less crowded platforms and fewer trains due to Covid-19 are one main reason for this development. However, in 2020 DB could finally put a significant number of new trains into service, allowing for better maintenance and more backup units.

While these figures represent the passenger service only, some of the underlying reasons (less congestion, less interference from other delayed trains) make it appear plausible that freight traffic also was more on time in 2020 than in previous years.

Find the whole news here (external link, German language).

Rhine-Alpine News

Duisport to Get Maersk Distribution Center

Logport VI (© duisport / Hans Blossey)

Container logistics company Maersk and duisport are combining their forces to build and operate a new distribution and logistics center in Duisburg. The new building is supposed to be planned and constructed in short order. Maersk will use more than 100,000 square meters in logport VI. The contract negotiations are in the final phase. The new addition will create 350 new workplaces.

logport VI, a parcel of almost 43 hectares which features a 500 meter long quay wall, is in the process of becoming the future home of a trimodal logistics location (including container terminal. After logport I in Duisburg-Rheinhausen, the Walsum location is the second-largest project of Duisburger Hafen AG in the past 20 years. Read the whole news here (external link).

New Central Administration for German Autobahn System

Photo: © BMVI / Fotolia / CL-Medien

The German “Autobahn” system has always been under federal law and financing. However, much of the planning as well as construction, operation and maintenance has been by the individual states on behalf of the federal government. Of the 16 states, four dealt with Autobahn segments along the Rhine-Alpine corridor alone.

From 1 January, the federal “Autobahn-GmbH“ took over all operative tasks together with roughly 10,000 employees that so far were employed by the federal states. In parallel, the new “Fernstraßen-Bundesamt (FBA)” will deal with the federal sovereign tasks involved. The idea is to improve construction and operation along the lines, which typically pass through several states. Read more details here (external link, German language).

Rhine Cruise Operators Aim at March for Restart

River cruise ship at Cologne (© Nicko Cruises)

While most river cruise ships on the Rhine do not operate during winter season anyway, some tours were offered all year. The pandemic has stopped these cruises until at least the end of January, with the near future uncertain. A check of main operators showed that for the time being they typically plan to resume operation during some time in March, which is the regular start of the cruise season.

River cruising is a significant industry on the Rhine and its tributaries. More than 150 ships regularly cruise on the Rhine, typically with a capacity of 150 to 200 beds each.

Rhine-Alpine News

“Guardian” Rail Journeys 2021: Rhine-Alpine Corridor Top of List

Treno Gottardo’s new “Traverso” train at Bellinzona (© SOB / Markus Schälli)

Rail journeys are getting more attention these days. The focus is shifting from small tourist lines to main line travel. This is very visible in an article of the British “Guardian” newspaper, featuring six rail journeys as suggestions for 2021. Three of them include the Rhine-Alpine corridor:

  • Amsterdam / Brussels to Vienna / Munich / Innsbruck, partly using the corridor.
  • Historical Gotthard line (panorama route) from Basel to Locarno via the old Gotthard mountain route. While freight and fast passenger trains use the new Gotthard tunnel, the mountain line is still in regular operation, marketed as “Treno Gottardo” by Swiss operator “Südostbahn”.
  • Better links from Zürich to Milan and on to Genova.

Find the whole article here (external link).

New Container Trains Antwerp – Basel

Besides the new barge service between Basel and Antwerp, starting from January there will also be through container trains three times a week by BLS Cargo. They will replace an existing service that included a transfer en route, at Neuss terminal. Find the details here (external link).

European Year of Rail

2021 is the European Year of Rail. The European Commission initiative will highlight the benefits of rail as a sustainable, smart and safe means of transport. A variety of activities will put rail in the spotlight throughout 2021 across the continent, to encourage the use of rail by both citizens and businesses and to contribute to the EU Green Deal goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2050.

Adina Vălean, European Commissioner for Transport, said: “The European Year of Rail gives us the opportunity to re-discover this mode of transport. Through a variety of actions, we will use this occasion to help rail realise its full potential. I invite all of you to be part of the European Year of Rail.”

In the EU, rail is responsible for less than 0.5% of transport-related greenhouse gas emissions. This makes it one of the most sustainable forms of passenger and freight transport. Among other benefits, rail is also exceptionally safe and it connects people and businesses across the EU via the Trans-European Transport network (TEN-T).

Read the full statement here and find the new website here (external links).

Rhine-Alpine News

Genoa: Investing in Cruise Infrastructure

MSC Grandiosa operated from Genoa in 2020 (Photo: MSC)

Genoa is in second place in the ranking of Mediterranean ports for cruise traffic. Cruises in Ligurian ports continued until December 3rd, with reduced numbers, both in the port of Genoa with MSC Grandiosa and in Savona with Costa Smeralda, thanks to the shared effort of the various authorities and cruise companies. Plans are to resume cruises in January. Positive signals for the sector also come from the increase in investments by ports for interventions mainly related to infrastructures, terminals, dredging and quantified in over 510 million euros for the three-year period 2021-2023, with growth compared to the previous three years.

In Italy, there was a reduction of 93.5% in the number of passengers and a 91%reduction in the number of ships’ stops.

Antwerp: “Single Window” for Inland Navigation is Live From 04/01/2021

Port of Antwerp informs its inland navigation customers: “Since its development, various software suppliers and inland shipping operators have extensively tested this new platform, and we are preparing for an official start-up on 4 January 2021. If you are an inland shipping operator and you already report digitally, the transition to the Single Window for Inland Navigation requires very little effort. The only thing you need to do is enter your details correctly and always enter at least two waypoints. This ensures that all the ports and authorities on your route are immediately informed of your arrival, and they can coordinate their internal operations accordingly.” Find the technical details here (external link).

European Night Train System Envisaged

SNCF will join forces for night train network (Photo: ÖBB)

These days, European railways have improved their plans for future night trains. SNCF joins network plans of DB, SBB and ÖBB. As a result, besides the connection from Amsterdam to Zürich, envisaged for December 2021, another train system will operate from 2023 in the Rhine-Alpine corridor: One train will start in Brussels, with cars to Berlin and Vienna. Another train with the same destinations will start in Paris. Both trains will swap cars en route.

Read the press statements of Deutsche Bahn (external link, German language) and of SNCF (external link, French language).