Rastatt reopens, but fallout set to persist

German intermodal operator Kombiverkehr, a jv between DB Cargo and some 230 national and international freight forwarders, fears there could be a lasting, negative impact on rail freight from the seven-week closure of the Rhine Valley railway line.

The ‘Rheintal’ or Rhine Valley railway re-opened to traffic earlier this week, with Kombiverkehr warning that “the restart of the regular operational processes will take some time”.

A spokesman for Kombiverkehr told Lloyd’s Loading List: “Overall, the entire rail freight transport sector suffers from the consequences of this incident. Freight forwarders are likely to be pressured by their shippers into choosing road (over rail) for their transport requirements and there is a risk that existing services for environmentally friendly intermodal traffic will no longer be available because the volumes won’t be there.”

He added:  “It could lead to a shift from train to truck in the long-term.”

Kombiverkehr cancelled over 1,000 trains during the period the line was closed at Rastatt, in south-west Germany, which would have carried approximately 25,000 consignments, leading to lost revenue estimated at around €15m.

The company’s compensation claim, submitted to Germany’s federal government early last month for “rapid and immediate” financial aid of €250m” to benefit all forwarding, traction, and terminal operating companies and transport operators affected by the line closure, had so far gone unanswered by the German authorities, the spokesman said.

These fears that the Rastatt crisis could lead to a long-term shift from train to truck are also expressed in an open letter published today in Lloyd’s Loading List sent by 30 rail and logistics associations to the European Commission and to the Transport Ministries of all European countries, urging for structural changes and processes that are needed to make intermodal logistics more robust and reliable, and noting: “Customer confidence in rail transport has also been damaged, jeopardising modal shift in the coming months and beyond. This must be rapidly restored if rail is to continue playing a key role in Europe’s sustainable transport system.”