Energy & environment

Concerns raised over the viability of Germany’s rail freight targets

Goals set for the growth of rail freight have been labelled as “too ambitious” by The Association of German Transport Companies. Abi Millar profiles Germany’s rail freight journey so far and asks whether the targets set out are attainable.

Over the past few years, Germany’s rail freight market has been high on the political agenda. At a time when the climate crisis is becoming harder to ignore, and traffic volumes are steadily increasing, rail is being touted as a cleaner and less energy-intensive alternative to road.

In January 2021, Chancellor Angela Merkel stated: “Rail transport is and will remain the backbone of climate-friendly mobility and logistics. Only with rail will we achieve our climate goals.” She announced that Germany would invest €86bn ($89.6bn) into its rail network over the next 10 years, with a focus on maintenance and modernisation.

Later in the year, the new coalition government unveiled new rail targets, including increasing rail’s share of freight transport from 19% to 25% by 2030. These goals mirror a broader ambition across the EU, which has announced plans to double rail freight by 2030.

“Certainly, rail is more energy-efficient than transport on roads, and it also uses a higher percentage of electric energy,” says Prof Dr Ing Uwe Clausen, director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics.

“These elements combined contribute to a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Also, if rail freight is well organised, it can be reliable. It is already the backbone for a number of industries in Europe, particularly in Germany, while it has potential in other sectors that has not been fully exploited yet.”

Read the rest of this article in the May 2022 edition of Future Rail

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