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Erik's Rail News
January 25th, 1998

Freight Freeways -- The Whole Story

Freightworld and Erik's Rail News get you the scoop on the latest in European railroading.

You probably know that between most European cities you can take a train that runs at 200 km/h or more. If you cross a border, often the train doesn't stop and any passport check is done while the train is moving. Maybe you also knew that freight services, in contrast, are slow and unreliable. Traversing the continent -- and isn't a very big one -- has been known to take three weeks or more. Freight cars stand idle at borders for days.

"Freight Freeways" are being touted as the answer to these problems. Some have started already, and more will start in February. The 2500 kms from Holland to Italy will be covered at 50-60 km/h when the freeway becomes operative, compared to 30-40 km/h now. If the freeways work, they will be a great example of the European Commission prodding, not forcing, member states and organizations to fix things that are broke.

The ambition is to make freeways into "one stop shops", where one can purchase a single timetable slot from A to B even if the points are in different countries. The one stop shop also means that documents only have to be shown once and paperwork is minimized. Freeways are expected to be the end of inspections at borders; the one stop shop will sell track access as a commodity, which the buyer may use freely, regardless of the type of goods transported.

Some details:

The job of the one stop shops:

  • Market capacity for freight trains on international routes, partly via Internet.
  • To react quickly to queries from rail companies who want to use the freeway, especially by furnishing information on
    • Prices for the use of infrastructure in all countries concerned,
    • Additional services available,
    • The current status of the trains, and
    • Technical information on the rail lines and other facilities to be used.
  • To close agreements on use of infrastructure in the name of the infrastructure operator and to charge the user.

The one stop shops will reserve timetable slots for a few months at a time, and these slots will then be sold off on a first-come, first-serve basis. It is possible to reserve slots ahead of time; the next batch of slots are for access starting May 23rd. A Belgium - Luxemburg - France - Italy freeway was to have started this month, as well as a Rotterdam - Italy freeway. In February, the following three freeways will start operating:

  • Rotterdam – Basel – Chiasso/Domodossola – (Milan*) – Genoa – Gioia Tauro. The Italian railway FS will be the one stop shop for this route.
  • Hamburg/Bremen – Nürnberg – Munich – Innsbruck – Brenner – Verona – Brindisi. German DBAG is responsible for this one.
  • Rotterdam/Bremen/Hamburg – Nürnberg – Passau – Vienna. Austrian ÖBB will be the one stop shop here.
*)Milan starting July 1st

The charges per train-kilometre are as follows:

  • Austria 4,2-7,0 euros
  • Germany 5,0-5,5 euros
  • Italy 2,4-2,8 euros
  • Netherlands 1,0 euros
  • Switzerland 4,38 euros

Sources: Swiss Federal Railways, and Nina Andersson at the Swedish Department of Communications.

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