Capacity and Use of Capacity of Railway Infrastructure in the Upper Rhine Valley

Capacity and Use of Capacity of Railway Infrastructure in the Upper Rhine Valley


Hansjorg Drewello, Hochschule Kehl


This paper gives a new input to the debate of further railway infrastructure investment in the Upper Rhine Valley. It provides political decision makers with new information about the capacity situation in order to guarantee alpine crossing freight transport without bottlenecks.


For more than 30 years, the need of an upgrading of the railway line in the Upper Rhine Valley between Karlsruhe and Basel by two new tracks has been a national consensus in Germany. This part of the European Transport Corridor Rotterdam-Genoa (TEN-T no. 24) is especially important for the success of Swiss investment in the Alpine crossing freight transport: the Lötschberg and the Gotthard base tunnel. This intention was laid down in 1996 in a binational agreement between the Swiss department of transport and the German federal ministry of transport. Today only a quarter of the whole section is has been upgraded. Even if though freight transport is still growing rapidly in Europe, this investment in the heart of the Corridor 24 seems not to be of absolute priority to Deutsche Bahn and the German government.
In order to accelerate and jointly develop the transport capacity of the entire corridor, thereby ensuring optimal economic benefits and spatial integration while reducing negative impacts on the environment at local and regional levels, a trans-national initiative has been established under the frame of the European INTERREG project CODE24. CODE24 stands for Corridor 24 development Rotterdam-Genoa and reflects the interconnection of economic development, spatial, transport and ecological planning along this relevant trans-European railway axis from Rotterdam to Genoa.
In order to analyze the need of an appropriate investment, representatives of CODE24 asked the infrastructure manager DB Netz to provide data about the capacity and the current demand/use along the German part of the railway corridor Rotterdam-Genoa. Data about freight transport in the Upper Rhine valley was of particular interest in order to test the hypothesis of a transport bottleneck on this part of the corridor Rotterdam-Genoa (Drewello, Günther 2012). This request was rejected – justified or not – with reference to confidential data by DB Netz. Currently, representatives of Deutsche Bahn negate the existence of bottlenecks along the German part of the corridor Rotterdam-Genoa. They argue that DB Netz is able to satisfy all requests for new freight or passenger paths on rail (Jahncke 2008). In addition to that, in previous years new infrastructure was mostly justified for high-speed trains.
That is why the Universities of Kehl and Offenburg organized a train counting near the city of Lahr in February 2013. The paper will show the results of the data collection and its interpretation. In the first part, the technical challenge to count and differentiate high speed, regional and freight trains with support of a high-tech infrared camera will be explained. The second part consists of the calculation of an average capacity for freight train paths per day for the two railway tracks near Lahr. This information will serve as a reference to the real use of capacity, observed and counted day and night for two weeks. This data will be presented in the third part of the paper.
Finally the results of the analysis need to be interpreted. The data will provide insights as to whether or not there is a real transport bottleneck in freight transport on this part of the Rotterdam-Genoa freight corridor. If not, given an estimation of future growth of freight transport, it will reflect the approximate time until the existing infrastructure will be saturated.

Added value of the paper:
Since the availability of appropriate data on rail is difficult, this paper shows an innovative method of obtaining those data at a relative low cost using the newest available technology. It enables local and regional stakeholders to gather knowledge on “their” rail corridor independently.

Jahncke, R. (2008): Branchenspezifische Leistungsangebote im Schienengüterverkehr, Schriftenreihe Wirtschaft & Logistik der BVL e. V., Deutscher Verkehrs-Verlag, Hamburg.
Drewello, H., Günther, H. (2012): Bottlenecks in Railway Infrastructure - Do they Really Exist? Proceedings of the European Transport Conference, Glasgow/London


Association for European Transport