Risk of breakdown of European rail logistics

The Rhine-Alpine rail freight corridor has the highest traffic volume of all rail corridors in Europe, with up to 200 freight trains per day. In fact, rail has a market share of 70% in trans-Alpine freight transportation between northern Europe and Italy via Switzerland. Combined transport accounts for 50%. By way of comparison: combined transport accounts for less than 10% on the Hamburg–Munich corridor.


The Rastatt closure on 12 August led to an abrupt interruption of traffic on the combined transport corridor. In the first two weeks, combined transport providers managed, just barely, and with delays, to handle freight traffic: they diverted trains via Stuttgart/Singen and Brenner, used a road bridge between Mannheim/Karlsruhe and Basel, and used a barge bridge to Basel, in each case organising onward carriage by rail to Italy.


At the end of the holiday season in Italy, however, volumes are rising sharply. The alternative capacity currently available is only able to cover just under half of combined transport demand. This will cause major disruptions in European trade and could potentially lead to a complete breakdown of the traffic system.


Road transport is not able to handle the very large additional volumes in transport with Italy. Roughly 15,000 trucks and drivers would be needed, and 20,000 additional trucks would need to travel through the Swiss Alps each week – twice as many as now.


At present, raw material deliveries are either not being made or are seriously delayed. As a result, a large number of production plants in Italy, Germany and other European countries are facing production slowdowns or even standstills. Moreover, there is a risk of supply bottlenecks in certain cases.


Hupac sees the greatest risk as a loss of trust on the part of the customers in rail transportation if the system is not able to demonstrate flexibility and customer orientation in the case of disturbances of this magnitude.