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More parcels on the rails: Deutsche Bahn wants to expand the transport network

Parcels are ready to be picked up in a hall

Will these packages be transported on rails in the future?

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin Buy shoes, furniture or laptops with one click and have them delivered to your home: For many consumers in Germany, online shopping has long been part of everyday life. The corona crisis has accelerated the trend again: for the first time last year, the mark of four billion sent parcels was cracked – that was almost eleven percent more than in the previous year, as the latest survey by the Federal Association of Parcel and Express Logistics (Biek) showed .

Transport alone is a major burden for the environment, because the vast majority of shipments are transported by road: 64.4 million tons of these were driven by trucks on the motorways last year, according to statistics from the Federal Motor Transport Authority. This means that mail and parcels account for around two percent of all truck freight traffic.

For comparison: According to the Federal Statistical Office, there were zero tonnes in the same period. Deutsche Post, on the other hand, states that it has so far had two percent of DHL parcels transported in freight trains for a large part of their route.

On Monday, the group presented new connections together with Deutsche Bahn, with which this proportion now increases to six percent. In the long term, every fifth parcel should be transported by rail. The group has not yet given an exact schedule. “The cooperation with Deutsche Bahn and the expansion of fast, light freight transport by rail is an important part of our sustainability strategy,” said Tobias Meyer, member of the Post’s board of directors.

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So far, there have been 13 connections for mail and parcels at the rail freight subsidiary, DB Cargo, almost all of which run on weekends. “Now seven more train connections have been added, mostly on weekdays,” it said. For example, the Großbeeren freight terminal in Brandenburg serves destinations in the greater Dortmund, Mannheim and Frankfurt / Main areas.

The DHL competitors are still reluctant. DPD tried out parcel shipping by rail about ten years ago; in a pilot project there were trains on the Bremen – Nuremberg route, among other things. The project has been discontinued.

Parcel service providers difficult to reach by rail

However, it will be some time before a significant part of the parcel volume is shifted from road to rail. Parcel service providers are difficult to reach by rail, said the rail association Allianz pro Schiene: “They built their logistics centers on the green field without a rail connection or transhipment terminal for combined transport, so that the warehouses can often only be reached by truck.”

The federal government, together with the federal states and municipalities, is therefore called upon to take on more responsibility for spatial planning: “In concrete terms, that means: New logistics locations should only be planned and approved with a siding and transshipment to rail.”

The Post announced on Monday that it would equip selected parcel centers with sidings. “The parcel center in Cologne is to start, in which an expansion and construction of direct access to the neighboring Eifeltor container terminal is planned over the next few years,” it said. However, structural and regulatory requirements made such projects difficult and protracted. In addition, it remains a challenge for rail companies to handle parcel transport, which is dependent on punctuality and speed, at the necessary speed.

Nevertheless, the managing director of the European Railways Network (NEE), Peter Westenberger, sees an “important market” for mail and parcels for the railways. The railway’s competitors are organized in the association. They are “well positioned” in so-called combined transport, which is relevant for the parcels. The challenges are not insoluble, but what is needed is a “clear commitment from the shippers”, ie from the parcel services. “I don’t see that at the moment,” said Westenberger.

As a first step, Deutsche Bahn refers to the expansion of its own overnight freight connections: “We set up two connections for the first time in 2020 – now we are running according to plan on twelve lines night after night,” it said. “If customers deliver a freight wagon or freight by a certain time, it will be delivered the next morning.”

More: New study: E-commerce has a better carbon footprint than stationary retail

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