Rhine-Alpine News

Importance of inland navigation for Rheinland-Pfalz


Photo (© HeinzWörth): Port of Wörth

Mainz: The German state of Rheinland-Pfalz with its population of 4 million is located along central sections of Rhine and Mosel rivers. The state government’s ministry of transport outlined the importance of these inland waterways in its recent answer to a major interpellation (“Große Anfrage”) of its parliament.

With 22 million tons per year, waterway transport to and from the regional ports is twice as high as the German per capita average and significantly above the rail transport volume, which in Germany totals well above waterway transport. However, most of the transport volume is by road. The figures do not include transit traffic, which in the case of Rheinland-Pfalz is several times higher than inbound and outbound volumes.

The ministry of transport gave more details of the state’s waterway transport. This includes volumes handled by its larger ports, as well as data about shipping lines and tentative figures of transit volumes. Being an official parliamentary document, it is available in German only.

Download the full document here (external link).


Position of the European Federation of Inland Ports (EFIP) on the European Green Deal

Brussels: As Enablers of Green Logistics, inland ports have adopted a series of recommendations regarding the European Green Deal in EFIP’s Position Paper. It comes to the following conclusions:

  • Modal shift towards inland waterway transport and rail should be promoted and a true Single European Multimodal Area should be created.
  • A successor programme to NAIADES II is needed.
  • The importance of rail connections for inland ports should be recognised.
  • A European approach to adaptation to climate change is necessary to ensure that inland waterway transport will continue to be possible across Europe.
  • The completion of the Trans European Transport Network (TEN-T) is of paramount importance for progress in European transport.
  • Decarbonisation requires a clear and long-term strategy for sustainable and smart mobility with a technology-neutral roadmap that the entire logistics sector can follow.
  • The review of the Energy Taxation Directive should support the uptake of all sustainable clean fuels and energies by introducing a long-term tax exemption for those fuels.
  • Appropriate investments will be needed.

Read the full Position Paper here (external link).


Steps for Lower Rhine to become climate-neutral transport route

Photo: © portofrotterdam 

Rotterdam: E.ON, Port of Rotterdam Authority and DeltaPort Niederrheinhäfen are joining forces to create an infrastructure for climate-neutral transport routes. Freight and passenger ships with climate-neutral propulsion can exchange battery containers or refuel hydrogen in the ports. The aim is to enable climate-neutral goods transport between Rotterdam and the European hinterland by 2050.

The pilot concept will initially focus on the German inland DeltaPort location in Voerde and Wesel. Conditions in Wesel are ideal: aluminium producer Trimet generates residual heat from which E.ON can produce new energy. The infrastructure will be designed in such a way that not only ships, but also trains and trucks can refuel hydrogen or recharge their batteries in the port.

Read the press statement here (external link).

Rhine-Alpine News

Strasbourg: Strong increase in port activities

Photo (PAS / Bartosch Salmanski): Strasbourg Port

Turnover in Strasbourg port has significantly bounced back in 2019, after the 2018 low water handicap. Total tonnage was 7.6 million tons, an increase of 28.5 %. Container traffic increased to 381,565 TEU (+5.6 %), of which 76,768 were handled by barges (+16.4 %).

During 2019, the port also registered more than 1.600 cruise ship landings with more than 230,000 passengers.

Read the detailed figures in the press statement (external link, French language).


Dutch railways prepare for arrival of international trains

Utrecht: Austrian railway operator ÖBB has announced to start a night service between Vienna and Amsterdam. Deutsche Bahn is preparing for a new set of faster trains to operate between Berlin and Amsterdam. Dutch operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) confirmed to this newsletter that it thinks about offering traction for these trains. NS therefore looks into leasing locomotives that can operate in both the Netherlands and Germany. The night train services will need no more than two locomotives, but the request includes an option for another 15 engines that would allow handling the Berlin trains and or other services.


15 organizations from the transport Sector call for a bold and realistic European Green Deal


Photo (Port of Rotterdam / Kees Torn): Wind turbines at Maasvlakte

Brussels: The Communication on the European Green Deal sets very ambitious objectives for the EU and sends a strong message to the rest of the world regarding Europe’s ambition to reduce emissions by at least 50% by 2030 and to transform its economy to become carbon-neutral by 2050. The European supporting associations representing logistics service providers, seaport and inland port authorities, shippers, inland waterways, combined transport operators, rail freight operators, port operators and terminal operators, marine equipment manufacturers and shipyards welcome the Green Deal. They believe that it can be an opportunity for Europe, particularly if it enables EU industries to benefit from a “new growth strategy” that will boost their competitiveness while becoming more sustainable. Such an ambition should be achieved while preserving a level playing field with other regions of the world.

The joint press statement of 11 February 2020 especially elaborates:

  • Achieving a carbon neutral transport sector,
  • Unleashing the potential of multimodal transport to reduce GHG emissions,
  • Providing legal certainty to early movers,
  • Mobilizing funding for research and dissemination of innovative solutions,
  • Ensuring a neutral approach when supporting innovation.

Find the complete statement here (external link). 

First Announcement Rhine-Alpine Corridor Conference 2020

Rhine-Alpine News

Rheinland-Pfalz improves truck parking system

Photo (© Frey / Bildergalerie MWVLW): State Vice Minister of Transport Andy Becht started the system together with Steffen Bilger, Federal Vice Minister of Transport, and Arno Trauden, Managing Director of the State Agency for Mobility

Mainz: The Autobahn A 61 roughly runs parallel to the Rhine. It is a main freight line along the Rhine-Alpine corridor. Truck parking is an important issue on the 200 km which the A 61 runs across the German state of Rheinland-Pfalz. A new system digitally surveys twenty parking lots with more than 1,000 truck parking spaces. Truckers get information about available space in real time. This will ease congestion at parking lots.

Costs of the new system were 3.6 million Euros. They were paid by the German federal government with support from the European Union within the URSA MAJOR 2 project.

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


Netherlands: Rotterdam port drives rail freight increase

Photo (pro rail): Freight train on Betuwe line

Rotterdam: In 2019, the number of kilometres run by freight trains in the Netherlands was up 5% against 2018. The main cause was rail traffic to and from Rotterdam port, which increased by 15% in the number of trains, and 13% in cargo volume. This means an average of about 15 additional freight trains per day to and from the port, both directions combined.

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


Lombardy rail news

Photo (Tuyra / Wikimedia): Fast trains at Milano Centrale station

Milan: The Rogoredo – Pavia main line, part of the rail link to Genova within the Rhine-Alpine corridor and located south of Milan, is to become a 4-track section: Approximately 29 km of two new tracks are going to be built in close proximity to the existing double track line. In August 2019, infrastructure operator RFI started the national Environment Impact Assessment procedure. The intervention has two construction phases: First from Milan Rogoredo to Pieve Emanuele, and then from Pieve Emanuele to Pavia. Work on the 1st phase is expected to start in 2021, and expected to end in June 2024. 

A new connection from Milan’s Malpensa airport to the Simplon line will complete the airport’s accessibility from the North. Approximately 5 km of double track will be put in place to reach the Gallarate node, plus another 1.1 km to connect with the Simplon line. The leader of the initiative is Lombardy’s regional rail operator Ferrovie Nord, which already runs the existing line between Malpensa airport and Cadorna station in downtown Milan.

In the early morning hours of 6 February, a Salerno-bound express train derailed on the high-speed line Milano-Bologna near Lodi, southeast of Milan, at full speed. Its derailed engine first hit a freight car that apparently belonged to a maintenance train. It then hit a building, killing two drivers and seriously injuring another two people. Traffic was re-routed via the parallel old main line. Read the news here (external link).

Rhine-Alpine News

Flemish government announces definitive preference for “Extra Container Capacity in Antwerp”

Photo (Port of Antwerp): Container handling in Antwerp port

The container volume handled by Port of Antwerp is growing year after year. It now represents a large share of the total freight volume. In 2019 the number of Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU) rose by 6.8% to 11.86 million. Additional space is now required in order to cope with this growth.

In December last year the Flemish government announced a definite preference in the choice of alternatives for the complex project entitled “Extra Container Capacity in Antwerp.” This preferred alternative includes among other things construction of a second tidal dock in the port of Antwerp. This goes along with various “inspansion” projects, i.e. filling in existing docks to create additional space.

Find the news here (external link).


Karlsruhe-Basel: „Building Information Modeling (BIM)“

Karlsruhe: Deutsche Bahn issued a new special newsletter on information modeling along the Karlsruhe-Basel route’s construction projects. A video gives more and vivid explanation, putting together three-dimensional modelling and drone views along the route.

Find the newsletter and the video here (external links, German language).


Germany-Netherlands: Cooperation for better mobility

Photo (NRW / Rainer Unkel): Christophe van der Maat (Noord-Brabant), Hendrik Wüst (NRW), Floor Vermeulen (Zuid-Holland), Marjolijn Boot (Overijssel), Christianne van der Wal (Gelderland), Hubert Mackus (Limburg).

Aachen: The regional ministers of five Dutch provinces and the Minister of Transport of the German state of Nordrhein-Westfalen came together in Aachen for their yearly coordination meeting. Topics were: Cross-border rail traffic, the development of the Rhine-Alpine corridor e. g. between the port of Rotterdam and the Rhine-Ruhr region, as well as smart mobility.

“Only if we think mobility across borders, we can improve the offer for commuters within the region and for goods transport”, Minister Hendrik Wüst of Nordrhein-Westfalen stated. “This is why I am very happy that the cross-border cooperation works so well.”

In-depth press statements can be found here (external links):

State of Nordrhein-Westfalen (German language),

Province of Gelderland (Dutch language).

Rhine-Alpine News

Progress between Karlsruhe and Basel

Photo (DB): Construction of bypass near Bietigheim

Karlsruhe / Basel: DB Netze, the infrastructure operator of Deutsche Bahn, outlines the ongoing construction progress on the railway line between Karlsruhe and Basel in its newest newsletter (4-2019). Measures include a new track at Weil am Rhein and Haltingen, a bypass at Bietigheim/Baden, and the construction work at the Rastatt tunnel. While the newsletter is in German language, illustrations and keywords will likely make for an easy understanding of basic facts.

Find the newsletter here (external link, German language).


Rail freight to reach Novara terminals more easily

Novara: The city of Novara, located in Piemonte Region and east of Milan, has a rather important intermodal terminal. Trains running between this terminal and Switzerland, via Domodossola, have to pass through the city centre. Italian rail network operator RFI has designated 84 million Euros for a bypass north of the city. It will be operational in 2025.

Furthermore, a noise reduction plan by RFI for railway lines in Novara will be revised, because the noise protection walls with their envisioned height of 7 meters would completely alter the local landscape.


New sleeper service to Brussels

Photo: ÖBB

Brussels: National Austrian rail operator ÖBB has started twice-weekly overnight passenger services between Brussels and Vienna as well as between Brussels and Munich / Innsbruck. The trains, which run combined from Brussels to Nuremberg and vice versa, use the railway line along the Rhine until Frankfurt. They offer different classes of sleeper services as well as coach seats.

ÖBB has in the past expanded its night train network across Europe. This includes some routes formerly operated by German rail operator DB, which no longer runs sleeper services. Further expansion of ÖBB services are expected, including a route to Amsterdam that will start to operate in December.

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

Rhine-Alpine News


LNG cruise ship to operate from Savona


Savona: Costa Smeralda is the first vessel of cruise operator Costa to be fuelled by liquefied natural gas (LNG), a breakthrough for the cruise industry as it will minimise overall environmental impact. Built at Meyer Turku in Finland, it measures 180,000 GT and set sail for its maiden voyage in December 2019.

Savona is the main homeport of the Costa line and expects 900,000 cruise passengers in 2020. Of the seven Costa ships currently ordered or under construction, five will be LNG-powered. This is a first in the cruise industry and underscores the role of Savona port in reducing C02 emissions.

Read the whole news (external link).


Collision of freighter and rowing boat near Basel leaves casualty

Birsfelden: On the Rhine, four rowers in a sports boat collided with a freighter when passing the port of Birsfelden in the evening of 13 January. Three persons could be rescued with minor injuries, but one was found dead in the water. According to local sources, it would be recommended to stay further away from the port entrance, but the boat apparently was steering a legal route. Investigations into the cause of the accident are ongoing.

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


German government supports modernization of inland vessels

Symbolic photo (Martin Brandt): German inland vessel

Berlin: Through 2020, the German Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure will support modernization of inland waterway vessels. The program supports various motor technologies under the condition that they are more environmentally sustainable than traditional diesel motors. In addition, the program supports exhaust cleaning systems. A precondition is that both the ship and its owner are legally registered in Germany.

More information (external link, German language).

Rhine-Alpine News

Port of Genoa: Contract for roadwork awarded

Photo: Port of Genoa

Genoa: In December 2019 the contract for the road works was awarded, as contained in the Extraordinary Program of urgent interventions for the recovery and development of the Port of Genoa. Its total cost is 128 million Euros.

The assignment went to RTI Pizzarotti & CSpA, which will design and carry out the road constructions: Several road segments, a car park, a bridge, as well as securing the Pionieri d’Italia viaduct and the static consolidation of Ponte dei Mille.

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


Another main bridge across the Rhine temporarily closed

Photo (Heidas/Wikimedia): Heuss-Brücke

Mainz/Wiesbaden: The “Heuss-Brücke”, linking the twin cities of Mainz and Wiesbaden across the Rhine, will be closed for maintenance until mid-February. The bridge, built in late 19th century, rebuilt after the last war, and thoroughly modernized in the early nineties, needs more repair.

The Heuss-Brücke has been closed for heavy trucks already in the nineties. However, it is the only connection between Mainz and Wiesbaden besides two Autobahn bridges. Its closure has no direct impact to long distance traffic, except by re-routed traffic that may add to congestion on the Autobahn routes. The main effect is on the local traffic between both cities. However, there will be a single lane open for taxies and buses, and the bridge will remain fully open for pedestrians and cyclists.

Read more here (external link, German language).


Corridor: Swiss transport industry demands extensions

Illustration: HUPAC

Switzerland: Swiss operator of combined transport HUPAC and other main actors in the Swiss transport sector have assessed the developments around the Rhine-Alpine corridor. They demand an international contract (“Staatsvertrag”) for increased capacity, including utilization of additional parallel routes:

“It is evident that there is an urgent need to create an alternative for the bottleneck in the north. Only the left bank of the Rhine via France can be considered as an efficient alternative route (flat track). It is ideal for the high-volume Belgium – Italy route. There is also a direct link with the corridor on the right bank of the Rhine, which serves to reduce risk. However, these routes do not yet correspond to the corridor parameters of the Swiss transit axis and therefore currently only carry a small volume of traffic.

In order to make better use of the capacities on these alternative routes for combined transport through Switzerland, the Zeebrugge/Antwerp – Strasbourg – Basel route and the Wörth – Lauterbourg – Strasbourg link must be upgraded to the parameters of 740m train length, 4m corner height, 2000 t with one locomotive, ETCS. This would also create a system in the north with two access routes and an alternative on the left bank of the Rhine.”

Read the whole statement (external link).

Rhine-Alpine News


Photo (Stadt Ludwigshafen): Traffic blocked underneath the closed highway.

Ludwigshafen / Mannheim: Elevated highways in Ludwigshafen feed the two road bridges across the Rhine between Mannheim and Ludwigshafen.  One of them, opened in 1959, was considered unsafe for traffic last August and has further deteriorated since. A segment of roughly half a kilometre may now be unable to carry its own weight. This led to closure of all urban traffic underneath, including streetcar lines. What already was a difficult situation for regional traffic, causing digestion even across the Rhine in Mannheim, now is extremely problematic also for urban connections in Ludwigshafen.

Demolition of the old structure will start at the end of the month. The planning process for a replacement has started, but construction will take many years. Meanwhile, the town’s largest employer, BASF, warns that traffic condition in city and region will seriously affect business.

Read more info here (external link, German language).


Belgium: Seven leading players sign collaboration agreement for hydrogen transport

Photo: Port of Antwerp

Antwerp / Zeebrugge: Hydrogen has an important role in significantly reducing CO2 emissions. That’s why Deme, Engie, Exmar, Fluxys, Port of Antwerp, Port of Zeebrugge and WaterstofNet have teamed up. A joint study will form the basis for a number of concrete projects to produce, transport and store hydrogen.

In the first phase the partners will carry out a joint analysis of the end-to-end chain of importation and transport of hydrogen. The objective is to map out the financial, technical and regulatory aspects of the various links in the supply chain. This includes production, loading/unloading and transport by sea and by pipeline. The results of the analysis will provide a roadmap showing the best way to carry hydrogen for the various applications in the energy and chemical sectors. The analysis is expected to take around one year to complete.

Read the press statement here (external link).


Vado Gateway set to transform logistics in northern Italy

Photo (APM terminals): New Vado Ligure terminal.

Vado Ligure: The new Vado Gateway container terminal in Vado Ligure was opened in December 2019. It is the result of a 450-million-euro investment. APM Terminals, with a share of 50.1%, has invested 180 million in the project, a further 43 million has been provided by project financing. Chinese Partners Cosco Shipping Ports have a 40% share and Qingdao Port International a 9.9% share. The terminal was commissioned by Autorità di Sistema Portuale del Mar Ligure Occidentale (Western Ligurian Sea System Port Authority). It will now entrust APM Terminals with the management of the facility for the next 50 years.

The Vado Gateway terminal is a hub for cargo moving to markets north of Italy, such as Switzerland, Germany or north-east France. The new terminal has already secured two important services operated by A.P. Moller-Maersk. Once fully operating, Vado Gateway capacity will amount to circa 900,000 TEUs per year. APM Terminals’ target is to move 40% of containers to and from Vado Gateway by rail.

Read the press statement here (external link).

Rhine-Alpine News

River cruising on the Rhine

In the calm days “between the years”, this newsletter also goes for a relaxing subject: River cruising on the Rhine and its tributaries.

The Rhine has been important for passenger transport since old. With railways being much faster than boats, and with individual transport taking over market shares, scheduled passenger transport was largely reduced to local lines with a strong touristic interest.

However, in parallel, operators have also offered trips on cabin cruise ships for decades. Now, these trips have become a mass phenomenon. Of the more than 300 larger river cruise ships in Europe, roughly half operate on the Rhine and its tributaries.

Photo (Martin Brandt): Classic cruise ship from the days before the boom


The cruise experience

Compared to sea going cruise ships, the boats on the Rhine are rather small, typically carrying around 150 and sometimes up to 200 passengers, and staffed with about 40 people. Locks on the upper Rhine as well as on the rivers of Main and Mosel limit the size of the ships to a maximum length of 135 meters, as they do with freighters.

The classic route is between Rotterdam and Basel, with stops at the main touristic highlights, like Cologne, Loreley rock, and Strasbourg. Others go for the tributary rivers, often combining them with the central Rhine valley. As a result, the famous valley sees a good 20 cruise ships on any day throughout the season. While the main season is from spring to autumn, Christmas and New Year cruises are also rather popular. Therefore, many passengers will celebrate New Year at the famous tourist spots along the river.

Photo (Martin Brandt): Contemporary cruise ship navigating the Rhine valley


The industry

Given the number of available beds, the total size of the rapidly expanding industry can be estimated to reach roughly a million passengers per year, and a yearly turnover of more than a billion Euros. Passengers spend additional money on shore and for travelling to and from the boats. Staffing, catering and ship maintenance have become important economic factors along the Rhine. However, this is not in the focus of transport related politics and thus often is overlooked, despite its growth and economic importance. Fortunately, the river itself is no bottleneck.

The relatively small size of the ships allows adjusting individual ships to separate markets. Leading operators run fleets of more than a dozen ships. Brands differ in markets and levels of comfort, perhaps more so than in itineraries. Many of the passengers are overseas tourists, usually of mature age, a rapidly growing segment in international tourism. 

Photo (Martin Brandt): Cruise ships anchoring at Cologne port for winter

While guides evaluating sea-going cruises have been published for many years, the evolving mass market also made guides for inland cruises appear; they can easily be found on the net and are specialized in information on the touristic side of the business.