Rhine-Alpine News

 “Karlsruhe – Basel”: An Overview

Photo (DB AG/Jürgen Schmidt): New line between Haltingen and Weil am Rhein

South of Karlsruhe, Deutsche Bahn (DB) expands its main line to Basel from two to four tracks. The line is currently a severe bottleneck along the Rhine-Alpine corridor. It limits the benefits of the Gotthard and Lötschberg tunnels for long distance rail freight traffic.

In the past, this newsletter has occasionally reported about individual construction work along the Karlsruhe – Basel corridor. However, reports of some construction work here and an opening there do not tell much about the state of the work and the progress made. Time for an overview.

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Segments

The line between Karlsruhe and Basel is about 180 km long. Deutsche Bahn divided the work into different segments. Some are already operating, on others the work has not yet started. Find the DB document below, and click on the illustration for better resolution.

To the non-German speaker, some explanation of terms may be helpful for reading the illustrations:

In Betrieb: In operation

PfV (Planfeststellungsverfahren): Planning approval procedure

NBS (Neubaustrecke): New line

ABS (Ausbaustrecke): Old line, to be improved

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Time Frame

On the DB „Terminübersicht“ (construction date sheet) below, the respective actual construction period of each segment is marked in red. The preceding planning and planning approval periods may be noteworthy. Again, click on the illustration for better resolution.

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A Rule of Thumbs

Looking at the line from the perspective of the corridor as a whole, a simple rule of thumbs may help to understand the state of the work between Karlsruhe and Basel:

– About one fourth of the line is already operating as a four-track line.

One fourth will be completed in a good five years.

One fourth will need a good ten years from now.

– The remaining fourth will be finished in about 15 years.

For the latter two fourths, after the respective completion of the additional new line, Deutsche Bahn will start to improve the existing old main line. This extends the time frame further into the future.

Find the official DB downloads here (external link, German language).

Photo (DB AG/Jürgen Schmidt): Preparing the new line between Haltingen and Weil am Rhein

Rhine-Alpine News

Railway noise protection along Rhine Valley

Photo (Martin Brandt): Transport noise along the Rhine

Mainz / Koblenz: The Middle Rhine Valley is a crucial part of the European transport infrastructure. Besides the river traffic, each bank accommodates a double track railway line, both of which see very heavy traffic. Deutsche Bahn has in the past invested in several kinds of noise protection along the route. Among them are protective walls, devices for sound absorption at the rails, and protection of buildings, mainly improving the windows at 8,000 apartments along the line.

For detailed information, follow this external link (German language) and look for the regional news, especially regarding the state of “Rheinland-Pfalz”.

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Galileo Green Line for cross-border trucking

GSA.Europa.eu: The European GNSS Agency (GSA) is working together with the European Commission (EC) on an app to facilitate the movement of goods and freight within the EU in support of the COVID-19 pandemic response. The “Galileo Green Lane” app will ease the flow of freight through borders and enable the efficient transit of critical goods.

The app will have two interfaces. The first is for border control authorities and provides a real-time visualisation of the overall border situation between a country and its neighbours. In turn, border officials can contribute information to the system by regularly feeding updates into the app on the traffic flow and waiting times at their borders.

The app will also feature a user interface providing drivers with a real-time visualisation of borders of interest to them, through an EU-wide map indicating Green Lane border crossing times. When drivers enter a geo-fenced area within a specified distance to a border, they can receive a notification produced by the border officers on the situation at that border.

Find the detailed Galileo news here (external link).

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New A 40 Rhine Bridge at Neuenkamp under construction

Photo (Karstn/Wikimedia): Restrictions in place on Neuenkamp Bridge

Duisburg: The German Autobahn A 40, connecting the Ruhr area with the Dutch town of Venlo, crosses the Rhine at Duisburg-Neuenkamp via a bridge of 1970 vintage. Technically, this bridge is almost identical to the A 1 Bridge that is currently being replaced at Leverkusen. It has similar structural problems, since it was built for just a fraction of the current traffic. Furthermore, for some years the Neuenkamp Bridge had been extended to six lanes, causing structural stress from resulting leverage. In 2017, the bridge was temporarily closed for motor traffic. It remains under daily observation and is blocked for overweighed trucks.

Construction of a new bridge had been scheduled for 2020, but due to availability of funds already started in 2019. The first half of the new bridge is scheduled for 2023. It will then temporarily allow for six lanes, while the old bridge will be dismantled and the second half of the new bridge will be built in its place, until 2026.

More details in this external link (German language).

Rhine-Alpine News

Mt. Ceneri: High-speed test runs successful at new tunnel

Photo (Martin Brandt): South portal of the old tunnel

Bellinzona / Lugano: Rail traffic on the Gotthard axis will profit from the opening of the Ceneri base tunnel. It will do away with the remaining steep grades along the line and is envisaged for late 2020. Recently, test traffic has started. While the Corona crisis temporarily interrupted the tests, in the evening of 2 May the first high-speed runs have now reached a record 275 kph.

Here is a video of the record trip, filmed from the driver’s cab (external link; from there click blue button to see the video).

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Port of Antwerp: New spaces for circular economy

Antwerp: The former Opel car assembly site within the port area is being cleared. Covering an area equal to 110 football fields (almost a square kilometre), it will offer space for industrial activities in the circular economy. There will also be room for innovative start-ups and scale-ups with the focus on innovation.

Read the news here (external link).

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Duisport: Further growth with more destinations in the China network.

Photo (© duisport / dws): Container train from Wuhan / China

Duisburg: In the last month, rail-based merchandise traffic with China reached a new record. Normally, between 35 and 40 trains travel between Duisburg and various destinations in China every week. This number had declined in February and March. However, since some provinces lifted the lock-down, China’s economy has quickly started up again. Last month, the Port of Duisburg registered an increase to approximately 50 trains a week.

Read the news here (external link).

Rhine-Alpine News

Genoa: New bridge nears completion

Photo (Columbia GSAPP / CC): Bridge architect Renzo Piano

Genoa: First, there is some real good news. Less than two years after the collapse of the Polcevera viaduct in Genoa, the new motorway bridge is in place and currently scheduled to open for traffic in late July. Some days ago, the “New York Times” ran an in-depth and richly illustrated article on the construction of the new bridge. While this article in principle is behind a pay wall, the New York Times allows for some free views per month.

Bridge architect Renzo Piano (82), who also designed the New York Times Tower, got world fame for the Centre Pompidou in Paris (1971-77). Many of his works are in the cities along the Rhine-Alpine corridor, and in 2004, he did the master plan of Genoa Port.

Find the article here (external link).

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Duisburg Port: 2020 figures will fall far behind the upswing of 2019

Photo (duisport, © Frank Reinhold): Container handling at Duisburg

Duisburg: These days, duisport released its financial statement for 2019. The total handling volume of the duisport Group declined from 65.3 million tonnes to approximately 61.1 million tonnes in 2019. This represents a drop of 4.2 million tonnes. However, revenues increased in 2019.

The main reasons for traffic volume decline include weaker industry demand and Germany’s move away from coal-based electricity, which led to another significant decrease in bulk cargo. Other factors include the closure of the Öresund bridge, which has significantly impacted the trade with Scandinavia, and weaker demand for preliminary chemical products.

In contrast, with a volume of approximately 4.0 million TEU, the 2019 container handling volumes of Duisburger Hafen AG remained at the level of 2018 (4.1 million TEU). With a share of around 60 percent, container handling is now duisport’s most important business segment.

Duisburg expects a 10% downturn of the economy in 2020 and faces parallel challenges for port operation.

Find the detailed statement here (external link).

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King Philippe visits Port of Antwerp

Photo: Port of Antwerp

Antwerp: His Majesty King Philippe of Belgium paid a visit to Port of Antwerp on Monday 27 April. The port is classified as “essential national infrastructure” because of its importance in keeping Belgium and indeed a large part of Europe supplied.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, the port has remained 100% operational thanks to the efforts and commitment of all employees. The King therefore wanted to see with his own eyes how this is being done in practice, and was keen to show his appreciation for the some 60,000 people who keep the port running day by day. His visit underlines the significance of the port and of the work being done by all those in these exceptional times.

Read the news here (external link).

Rhine-Alpine News

Rhine Bridge north of Cologne: Calamities worsen

 

Photo (Raimond Spekking / CC via Wikimedia): Current access limitations for Leverkusen bridge

Leverkusen: The important Rhine crossing bridge of German autobahn A 1 at Leverkusen, north of Cologne, has reached its life expectancy. For years, traffic is limited and heavy trucks are not allowed on the bridge. This results in significant detours via Düsseldorf or via central Cologne. Now, quality problems with steel elements imported from China halt the construction of the replacement bridge.

A first part of the new bridge was meant to open in late 2021. However, key elements appear not to meet German norms and quality demands. The minister of transport for the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia has now terminated the building contract and will issue a new tender. The construction company will likely challenge the decision in court. A new opening date may therefore be no earlier than late 2013.

Read the news here (external link, German language).

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Covid-19: EU emergency regulations on rail sector

Brussels: Reductions in rail services result in lack of revenue and in different cost structures for rail operators. Sticking to the legal framework of EU subsidies would in many cases cause bankruptcy. It would therefore threaten the remaining indispensable services as well. Therefore, the EU has outlined a set of measures in a letter to rail directors. Many rules on standards and on subsidies are altered or temporarily suspended. Find the detailed information here:

Exceptional measures in transport to deal with COVID-19; Inability to comply with certain provisions of EU legislation (external link, DG Mobility and Transport).

General state aid rules and coronavirus (external link, DG Competition).

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5th anniversary of EGTC Rhine-Apine

Photo: Founding of EGTC Rhine-Alpine in 2015

Mannheim: The EGTC Rhine-Alpine was founded on 25 April 2015. After five years of its existence, it has grown from 10 to 25 members. The EGTC has successfully elaborated an Action Plan, lead or participated in EU-projects and has gained reputation, e.g. as full member of the EU-Corridor Forum Rhine-Alpine in Brussels!

For the time being, we cannot fix any date for the next EGTC meetings to come. But we will keep you updated about our proposal for the next meetings and their format. In particular, the six thematic focus groups are already used to remote cooperation and are thus asked to continue to do so now in order to fill the Action Plan with life.

Rhine-Alpine News

International rail passenger services:
What is operating along the corridor?

Covid-19 has severely affected international travel. This newsletter gives an overview of the current international long distance rail passenger services along the Rhine-Alpine corridor, as displayed in the online information services of the main railway carriers. However, the situation is continually changing. All information was retrieved on 20 April, using the example of Wednesday 22 April. 

This list is meant to give an overview of the general situation. It is not a recommendation for travel and cannot take into account the various legal travel restrictions that are in place along the corridor. 

Symbolic photo (Martin Brandt): Schedules change at short notice

Antwerpen – Rotterdam

The line has an hourly through service, plus one pair of trains continuing to and from Paris (Thalys).

Amsterdam – Utrecht – Arnhem – Ruhr Area / Cologne – Frankfurt

Three through pairs of ICE trains run between Amsterdam and Frankfurt. One additional pair runs between Amsterdam and Basel Bad Bf. Additional connections include regional trains between Arnhem and Duisburg, at least hourly.

Brussels – Liège – Aachen – Cologne – Ruhr Area / Frankfurt

One pair of ICE trains runs between Brussels and Frankfurt. One additional pair runs between Brussels and Cologne. Thalys service is currently not available on this route. Additional hourly connections include regional trains between Welkenraedt and Aachen as well as between Aachen and Cologne.

Paris – Strasbourg – Mannheim / Stuttgart

Cross-border ICE resp. TGV services are canceled. Regional trains operate at irregular intervals (30 min to 3 hrs), allowing for a number of connections in Strasbourg and with the German long distance network at Offenburg.

Freiburg – Basel Bad Bf / Basel SBB

While most long distance services within Germany and Switzerland operate, German trains only run to and from Basel Bad Bf, and Swiss trains run to and from Basel SBB. Regional trains regularly connect the two stations, but they add to travel times.

Strasbourg – Mulhouse – Basel SBB

No through passenger services between Strasbourg and Basel. Regular regional service between Mulhouse and Basel SBB exists, running up to several times per hour and connecting with national long distance services.

Stuttgart – Schaffhausen – Zürich

No passenger rail services between Singen and Schaffhausen. Connecting local bus services exist (bus change necessary en route, then regional train Schaffhausen – Zürich). For the time being, the line appears not suitable for long distance travel.

Bern – Brig – Domodossola – Milano („Lötschberg route”)

No through passenger services. Some peak hour trains operate between Brig and Domodossola, connecting with national Swiss resp. Italian services.

Zürich – Lugano – Chiasso – Como – Milano (“Gotthard route”)

No passenger services between Switzerland and Italy. Local services end at Chiasso resp. Como San Giovanni stations, which are nearest to the border.

Other services

Besides these routes, various regional cross-border rail services are active, but they are not part of any significant long distance routes along the corridor. Freight services are operating along the corridor.

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Photo (Lars Steffens / Thalys): Paris – Brussels – Dortmund Thalys train leaving Cologne

More information

See below (selected external links, also for national services):

Netherlands (NS)

Belgium (NMBS/SNCB)

Germany (DB)

France (SNCF)

Switzerland (SBB/CFF)

Italy (FS)

Rhine-Alpine News

BLS ordered 25 freight engines for corridor traffic

Photo (cc/Heitersberg): BLS “Vectron” type engine

Bern: Swiss rail operator BLS Cargo recently ordered 25 additional electric freight locomotives of the Siemens “Vectron” type, bringing its “Vectron” fleet to 40 units. All new engines will be equipped for Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. BLS Cargo expects to increase its traffic along the Rhine-Alpine corridor especially to and from Belgium (Antwerp). The engines are due for delivery from 2020 to 2025.

BLS Cargo mainly operates long distance freight trains in transit over the “Lötschberg”, one of the two main transalpine routes across Switzerland. The route in its central part is owned by BLS Cargo’s majority shareholder, the regional rail operator BLS AG.

Read the news here (external link German language).

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Market study for Gelderland Rail Terminal

The Province of Gelderland, located centrally in the Netherlands and at the Rhine-Alpine corridor around the city of Arnhem, plans a rail freight terminal to encourage modal shift. These days, it has published the local market study. The study elaborated upon desired functionalities from the point of view of the regional economic actors.

Read the news here (external link, Dutch language).

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Rail Bridge for improved Betuwe link at Port of Rotterdam

Illustration: Port of Rotterdam’s rendering of the new rail bridge

Rotterdam: Last week, in Rotterdam port a rail bridge was put into place within construction work of the “Theemswegtracé”. This is a new 4 km long rail link which will provide a solution to the problems associated with the Calandbrug bridge near Rozenburg. That old steel vertical lift bridge for rail, road and slow traffic in the Rotterdam port area is the connecting link for the Betuwe Route to the hinterland. For ocean shipping, the vertical lift bridge provides access to the Brittanniëhaven. In 2020, the Calandbrug reaches the end of its technical lifespan. At the same time, the port expects a capacity bottleneck for rail traffic, due not only to the expected growth in rail transport, but also from ocean shipping traffic to and from the Brittanniëhaven. The new route is expected to open next year.

Read about the rail link and the bridge construction (external links).

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On another note, the Port of Rotterdam announced last week that the number of arriving ships appeared constant and is “not (yet)” showing an impact of the Corona crisis.

Rhine-Alpine News

Netherlands cut highway speed

 

Source: Wegenwiki.nl

The Hague: In an effort to limit pollution, the Netherlands have this March reduced the speed limit on its motorways to 100 kph during daytime hours. The speed limit of trucks above 3.5 tons is not affected and remains at 80 kph. However, the smaller difference in speed between cars and trucks may generally result in traffic that is more fluent.

Read more here (external link).

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Infrastructure to adapt to new Vado Ligure terminal

Vado Ligure: With the new intermodal APM terminal in operation at Vado Ligure, west of Genova, preparations are made to further adapt the road and rail networks. The hinterland rail connection across the Ligurian Mountains, still mainly single track, is to be improved. Future track arrangement will allow goods traffic to operate separate from commuter trains. In addition, improvements on the connection of the terminal to the main highway will start in June; construction will take two years.

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Upper Rhine Valley: Fatal rail accident by partial bridge collapse

Symbolic photo (cc, NAC): Rolling Highway, crossing Switzerland

Freiburg / Basel: The main railway line along the Rhine is temporarily blocked at Arggen between Freiburg and Basel, due to an accident last week. A large concrete block fell from a bridge that was being dismantled and due for demolition, as part of the construction work of adding a third and fourth track along the line. A freight train of the “Rolling Highway” hit that concrete block, killing the driver and injuring 10 truck drivers in the derailed passenger car behind the engine. The truck drivers were travelling along with their vehicles on the train that was bound to cross the Alps.

The exact cause of the accident is still under investigation. The route has intense passenger and freight traffic and will probably be reopened during Wednesday.

Read a report here (external link, German language).

Rhine-Alpine News

Covid-19 Corridor News

Business support organizations offer advice in the Corona crisis. Among them is Logistics Valley, a triple helix organization and partner for the Province of Gelderland (around the city of Arnhem). It started a website to help the logistic sector: www.logisticsvalleyhelpt.nl (external link, Dutch language). Logistic companies and entrepreneurs can use the information on the website, free of charge.

Logistics Valley connects entrepreneurs, government and knowledge centers for powerful, sustainable and innovative logistics Gelderland. It is an initiative of the Province of Gelderland and consists of three logistic hotspots: Rivierenland, Liemers Achterhoek and Nijmegen. Municipalities, education and knowledge centers such as the University of Applied Sciences Arnhem and Nijmegen (HAN) and other universities and the East Netherlands Development Agency (Oost NL) are affiliated with Logistics Valley as well as dozens of transport and logistics companies.

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While the Rhine-Alpine corridor has lots of rail passenger service, its diversity makes a specific update difficult. However, for the current European and worldwide rail passenger service restrictions, including the corridor, the British website of a train enthusiast “The man in seat 61” (external link) may give a good overview.

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Reopening of Motorway Bridge across Ligurian mountains

Photo (Ports of Genoa): Ribbon cutting ceremony on 21 February.

A viaduct on the Italian A6 motorway, connecting the port of Vado Ligure with its northern hinterland, had collapsed on 24 November 2019, after being hit by an imposing landslide. Ligurian Ports these days sent out surprising news: The new motorway viaduct was already inaugurated in late February, after a construction period of only 70 days!

“Today marks the beginning of the mending of wounds opened by the calamities of the last few years. The record time in which the viaduct was restored, as well as the execution of the works for the new bridge for Genoa, bodes well for the future,” says the President of Port System Authority, Paolo Emilio Signorini.

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“Pallet’s Eleven”

Photo: Martin Brandt

Finally, some further good and even entertaining news: Last week, a candidate in Germany’s “Who wants to be a millionaire” TV scheme won the jackpot (one million Euros) with his answer to a question about the very basics of logistics: „The classic European norm pallet is made of 78 nails, nine cubes and how many boards?” The candidate thought it over and then got it right. Spoiler: The correct answer is hidden in the headline of this news.

Here is the report (external link, German language).

Rhine-Alpine News

Covid-19: Rhine-Alpine Corridor remains open

Symbolic photo (Martin Brandt): River cruise ships idle in Cologne

The world is disrupted by Covid-19. In central Europe, international passenger services have basically come to a halt, national and local services are being reduced. River cruises and sea cruises are cancelled, including the Rhine river cruises and sea cruises from the ports at the Rhine-Alpine corridor. People who still need to travel for essential reasons must inform themselves about the remaining possibilities, and all others stay home.

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What about goods transport?

Goods transport is affected in multiple ways, but infrastructure and service providers fight to keep it going. While the ports keep fully operational, they do only essential services which are directly necessary for the handling of cargo. Here are statements from seaports along the corridor (external links):

Port of Rotterdam (Netherlands)

Port of Antwerp (Belgium)

Port of Genova (Italy)

Inland ports also remain open. See examples:

Duisport (Germany)

Port of Strasbourg (France)

Rail freight operation is largely operating according to plan. As an example, see the statement of intermodal operator Kombiverkehr.

In road transport, the situation along the corridor appears more complex. “At the moment, our main question along the Rhine-Alpine corridor is not so much getting across the border”, Andrea Marongiu, managing director of the Baden-Württemberg logistics association “VSL”, tells the editor of this newsletter. “The greatest problem of our members is that at the moment they all too often find the recipient businesses being closed upon arrival of the trucks, so the cargo cannot be delivered.”

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Goods transport is crucial

Symbolic photo (Martin Brandt): River transport on the Rhine

“The transport sector has a crucial role to play in the supply of goods, in particular medicines, medical devices, food and other essential commodities needed to overcome this crisis. The transport sector also proves to be a vital instrument in these times where many European citizens are restricted in their mobility”, writes the European Federation of Inland Ports in a press release of 24 March, together with many other European associations representing transport, infrastructure managers, operators, workers in all transport modes and logistics, contractors, local and regional authorities, logistics service providers, shippers, users and equipment suppliers in the maritime, port, inland waterways, railways, road, cycling, aviation and intermodal sectors, as well as supporting industries and companies.

“The flow of goods remains essential in this critical period. As such, the free flow of goods across the EU must be guaranteed. Additionally, we must support and protect all those working in transport and logistics. Their contributions in overcoming this crisis are vital. In times of emergency, inland ports and inland waterways play an essential role in providing European citizens, health services and businesses with a consistent flow of goods in order to come through this crisis.”