Decrease in German rail freight

Joerg Huettenhoelscher /

Unlike in the UK, where the growth in rail freight seems only to be limited by network capacity, the sector seems to be struggling in Germany.

Figures released on 17 February 2017 by the Federal Office of Statistics show that, while the total volume of freight grew in 2016, the portion transported by rail fell by 1.6 per cent and now represents just 17.6 per cent of the total market.

In contrast, road freight in Germany increased by 1.5 per cent.

Dirk Flege, managing director of the Pro-Rail Alliance, commented: “Rail freight transport is increasingly becoming a big worry for policy makers.

“With the publication of the official statistics, the federal government has today been given a painful reminder of where its HGV-friendly policies will lead. Germany’s policies on shifting transport mode are going the wrong way: from the railways onto the roads.”

In contrast, consumer rail traffic in the UK has reached its highest traffic level since 1998. According to the ORR’s Q2 2016-17 statistics for freight moved by rail, consumer intermodal traffic rose by 3.9 per cent and construction traffic increased by 8.3 per cent.

It’s not all rosy though. The drop in coal traffic has had a big impact on UK freight tonnages overall, although other types of freight are replacing it.

Responding to the ORR’s Q1 2016-17 rail freight figures, Philippa Edmunds, manager of trade organisation Freight on Rail, said that still more needed to be done: “There is suppressed demand for long distance consumer services, because of network constraints.

“Every rail slot which comes available out of Felixstowe port can be filled immediately. Currently there are 33 daily rail services in and out of the port which are removing around 1600 HGVs from the A14 corridor each day. Once this corridor is fully upgraded 40 million lorry miles per annum could be removed, so it should be a priority scheme for the Government.”

Report by Nigel Wordsworth


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