Rhine-Alpine News

Lötschberg tunnel: Current problems and future improvements

Photo (Stefan Irngarting / BLS): Lötschberg base tunnel flooded this spring

Bern: Water has flooded the Lötschberg base tunnel on several occasions this spring. Temporarily, rail traffic used the old mountain line. Infrastructure operator BLS prepares for a permanent engineering solution in dealing with tunnel water.

Beyond these short-term worries, the Lötschberg base tunnel as part of the Lötschberg-Simplon line is a main rail connection across the Alps, along the Rhine-Alpine corridor. Different from the parallel Gotthard tunnel, the “larger half” of the Lötschberg base tunnel is single track. The tunnel is therefore operating at its limit. Freight trains often have to use the old mountain line. However, when it was built, a significant part of the tunnel was prepared for a second track. This will be installed in the coming years, shortening the single-track bottleneck and thus improving capacity. Find instructive texts and video in German language, French language, Italian language and English language here (external links).

Alessandria develops into „inland port“

Photo (Regione Liguria): Construction work at Alessandria

Alessandria: The time schedule of the project for the new freight center in Alessandria was finalized: the economic feasibility project will be ready within 10 months, the technical-economic feasibility project within 12 months and the definitive project will be ready within 18 months. The Alessandria Smistamento (“rail hub”) project represents one of the strategic activities to be developed to achieve the optimization of the logistic flows that are part of the Genoese node and the ports of the Western Ligurian Sea system.

Alessandria in Piemonte Region is conveniently located for an “inland port” hub, north of the Ligurian Alps, with rail connections to the Ligurian ports as well as the Padavian conurbations and the Rhine-Alpine axis. In this context, the identified areas, also included in the new “Simplified Logistics Zone” envisaged in Law 130/2018, may represent a site of great interest both for the development of rail / intermodal transport services and for potential settlements of logistics activities and buffer areas.

World’s largest container ship connects with Rhine-Alpine corridor

Photo (Port of Rotterdam): HMM Algeciras

Antwerp / Rotterdam: The currently largest container ship, HMM Algeciras, visited Antwerp and Rotterdam on its scheduled trip on which it is to return every 12 weeks. HMM Algeciras takes part in a “rotation” of a dozen ships of similar size, jointly operated by several shipping companies. The “rotation” regularly connects several large East Asian ports with several main European ports on a weekly schedule, among them Antwerp and Rotterdam as well as, yes, Algeciras.

The vessel is roughly 400m long and more than 60m wide, storing 24 containers across in 24 layers, of which 12 on deck, resulting in a capacity of almost 24,000 TEU. While it shares these overall dimensions with several other ships, it can carry some containers in an additional 13th layer on deck. Twelve ships of this class are being built, of which three already entered service. Find the news about its arrival in Antwerp and Rotterdam here (external links), plus detailed info about the vessel’s type (external link, German language).

Rhine-Alpine News

Five years of Success:
EGTC Rhine-Alpine

Photo (EGTC Rhine-Alpine): Anniversary toast

On 19 June, in a virtual meeting the EGTC community with its members and advisors celebrated the fifth anniversary of the EGTC Rhine-Alpine. Chair Christianne van der Wal welcomed around 50 participants and threw a spotlight on the success story of the organisation, grown from 10 to 25 members and jointly  acting according to its slogan “One Corridor – One Strategy”.

With  Paweł Wojciechowski, the EU’S Rhine-Alpine Corridor Coordinator, and Herald Ruijters, Director for Investment, Innovative & Sustainable Transport at DG MOVE, two invited guests addressed key topics for the future development of the TEN-T corridors in general and the Rhine-Alpine as the most mature and developed corridor. Greening and Digitalisation will be the 2 main headlines for the coming funding period. A stronger role for urban nodes and focus on resilience (with multimodality as a key factor) are further issues to be addressed in the future. The new Corridor Work Plan no. 4 to be launched in July  reflects in these topics, including inland water ways promotion. All these issues will be priorities in the new funding Programmes, like CEF, HORIZON EUROPE and INVEST EU.

According to its Action Plan, the EGTC as a frontrunner in transnational cooperation just prepared a new digital and public format for communication and exchange among the entire Rhine-Alpine community. The digital series “Rhine-Alpine Talks” will provide room for Information and exchange in relevant topics  despite of current restrictions caused by Covid19. Scheduled for a monthly Implementation, the first edition will take place on

3rd July 2020: “Corona and the Corridor”.

Become part of the corridor community and register via email to info@egtc-rhine-alpine.eu for the upcoming “Rhine-Alpine Talks”!


Other news:

„A Tesla among ships“

„Nijmegen Max“, a full-size inland waterway containership, has started operation among inland ports of the Netherlands, operating with electric energy. The ship, dubbed “the Tesla among the container ships” by a Dutch newspaper, utilizes an innovative method of energy provision: Batteries are stored in standard containers that can be exchanged easily, more or less like the payload containers. Read the article here (external link, Dutch language).

RheinCargo expands operations to Ludwigshafen

Logistics service provider RheinCargo took over shunting and loading activities for SHELL in Ludwigshafen and Flörsheim. RheinCargo is a trimodal logistics operator, founded by the ports of Cologne, Düsseldorf and Neuss. With 90 locomotives and mor than 700 wagons, it is among the larger rail freight operators in Germany. It has a strong position along the Rhine-Alpine corridor, serving customers well beyond its original port locations, both with long distance services and local operations. Read the whole news here (external link, German language).

Photo (© RheinCargo): Industrial shunter

Rhine-Alpine News

DB Cargo to strengthen carload business

Photo (CC / Frank): Mix of freight cars at Mannheim yard

Sigrid Nikutta, head of German freight carrier DB Cargo, in a press meeting on 11 June has announced that DB will strengthen its carload business. Many newcomers compete on the profitable German market for unit trains of mass commodities as well as for intermodal trains, where they bite into DB’s market share. Meanwhile, the conventional business of running mixed freight trains still makes for a big share of DB Cargo business. DB Cargo faces no big scale competition here, but, because of its complexity, for a long time it has not been viewed as profitable. Many national carriers have sidelined this business.

DB Cargo now views the carload business as a unique strength and a way to generate more business. It has published plans for expansion and reorganization. This would mean a major policy shift, away from decades of conventional wisdom about the future of rail freight.

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

Border regions: International rail connections must improve

Five Dutch Provinces (Gelderland, Overijssel, Limburg, Noord-Brabant, Zuid-Holland) and the German State of Nordrhein-Westfalen strongly prioritize improvements in international rail transport. They sent a joint letter to both their federal governments on 10 June, with detailed suggestions. Among them are: Strengthening of regional passenger links, several improved international long distance passenger connections, and measures for expanding rail freight capacities. In the Rhine-Alpine corridor, this includes e. g. the third track on the German feeder of the Betuwe rail freight line to Rotterdam, and a rail freight link Antwerp – Venlo – Duisburg.

Read the Dutch version and the German version of the letter (external links).

Improvements in sight for HSL-Zuid

Photo (CC / Rob Dammers): Conventional passenger train on HSL-Zuid

HSL-Zuid, the new high-speed passenger railway line crossing the Rhine-Alpine Corridor, from Amsterdam via Rotterdam and Antwerp to Brussels, and connecting towards Paris, opened about ten years ago. Problems and subsequent withdrawal of the designated special train sets have plagued the line from the start. Conventional trains have since run most passenger services.

Now operators announced a delivery date for a new set of high-speed trains. This will allow increasing speeds to 200 kph from 2023, resulting in substantial service improvement between the conurbations along the line.

Find the info here (external link, Dutch language, follow to “annex”).

Rhine-Alpine News

    Dry spring – low water?

Symbolic photo (Martin Brandt): Low water level at Kaub

Koblenz: „At the moment, the water volume of the Rhine is 40 % below typical seasonal figures”, Jörg Uwe Belz of the Bundesanstalt für Gewässerkunde in Koblenz confirms a recent article of “Süddeutsche Zeitung” to this newsletter. Winter and spring were unusually dry. While this for now is not a problem, it may result in a summer with very low water levels. Shipping lines already ask for some “low level surcharge”. However, future rainfalls may still avert any problems for summer.

Read the article here (external link, German language), and find an interpretation of the figures below.

„Kaub only 92 cm?“ – How to read Rhine water levels

First of all: No, the present water level at Kaub is somewhat higher – about 140 cm. But Kaub, located between Mainz and Koblenz on the Middle Rhine, is often singled out by the media to point out record low water levels. Such sensational figures ignore that the “point 0” does not indicate the river bottom, but simply the lower end of the scale. In each case, one must add some individual figure to calculate the depth of the navigable channel. For Kaub, this officially is 112 cm, resulting in a present water depth of about 2.5 meters at the most shallow point of the passage.

In most places around the scale, the river is even quite a bit deeper. However, given the irregular and rocky shape of the riverbed, diligent navigators are not interested in typical or average depths. This is why official calculations are always set up to indicate the lowest figure along a passage.

Antwerp: Structural improvement in container barge transport

Photo (Port of Antwerp): Container terminal operation

Antwerp: Availability of slots for inland barges has long been an issue at sea port terminals. In Antwerp, the BTS (Barge Traffic System) now informs barge operators proactively about the availability of the terminals. This enables the barge operators to spread out their berth requests and adjust their schedules.

For some time now, Antwerp Terminal Services (ATS) has coordinated the barge scheduling of PSA Antwerp, DP World and MPET. Consolidating small volumes has made it possible to increase the call size of the barges at the maritime terminals. The process significantly reduces the number of calls at the terminals and contributes towards more efficient scheduling.

Read the whole story (external link).

Rhine-Alpine News

Guidelines on progressive restoration of transport services and connectivity

Photo (image of the Federal Customs Administration): Traffic inspection at Swiss border

With the gradual reopening of borders and reinstallation of transport services, the EU Commission communicates its “Guidelines on the progressive restoration of transport services and connectivity – COVID-19.”

“The progressive restoration of transport services and connectivity will be fully dependent on the approach to travel restrictions, on epidemiological assessments, as well as on expert medical advice on necessary health and sanitary protection and precautions. [ … The guidelines] aim to provide further guidance on how to progressively restore transport services, connectivity and free movement as swiftly as the health situation allows it”, the guidelines state.

Furthermore, “Transport of freight should continue to be safeguarded to ensure that supply chains are functional. The Joint European Roadmap indicated that ‘in the transition phase, the efforts to maintain an unobstructed flow of goods and to secure supply chains should be reinforced’. Starting from the current maximum 15 minutes for crossing green lane borders, the controls performed should gradually be eased in a coordinated way, using established coordination channels such as the national transport contact points for COVID-19 and the Integrated Political Crisis Response (IPCR), to ultimately allow crossing internal borders as before the introduction of COVID-19- related restrictions for all freight vehicles and all goods. As traffic will increase again, the role of multimodal hubs, such as ports or container terminals, in supporting the green lanes deserves special attention.”

The guidelines then outline details regarding transport workers as well as passengers, and by transport mode, including urban mobility. Find the text here, in Dutch, English, French, German and Italian language (external links).

New EU project “PLANET” to assess impact of trade corridors on TEN-T network

Photo (Port of Rotterdam / Eric Bakker): Container ship on global trade corridor

The PLANET project will assess the impact of emerging global trade corridors on the TEN-T network, ensuring effective connectivity and sustainability of the European Global Network. It will receive funding under the European Union’s “Horizon 2020” research and innovation programme.

PLANET is a 36-month project, starting on the 1st of June 2020, that is rigorously demonstrating the emerging concepts (Physical Internet) and technologies (IoT, Blockchain) in three EU-global real-world corridors (China – EU – US). The project will focus on:

•             Modelling and specifying the dynamics of new trade routes and their impacts on logistics infrastructure and operations, with specific reference to TEN-T;

•             An EU-Global network enablement through demonstration of disruptive concepts and technologies (IoT, Blockchain and PI, 5G, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles /automation, hyperloop) which can address current shortcomings.

The project will liaise closely with the European Technology Platform ALICE and its developments and projects to join forces with all projects in this area. Three “Living Labs” (including the ports of Valencia, Rotterdam and Sines) will contribute to the strategic analysis of global flows (based on the corridors where they are located), the analysis of corridor infrastructure issues, and the investigation of integration of the respective global corridor with the TEN-T.

The EGTC Rhine-Alpine is one of the 33 partners of the PLANET consortium, who collectively represent a large cohort of principal EU and Global Transport & Logistics.

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.