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Germany – Deutschland – Allemagne


The Talent 2 Emu is a multiple unit railcar manufactured by Bombardier. The train began production in 2008 and first entered service with Deutsche Bahn in 2011. Some trainsets Class BR442 for the train service along Mosel have only two cars, as we can see here in Coblence, August 2014. More pictures here

Les rames Talent 2 sont des automotrices fabriquées par Bombardier. La production a démarré en 2008 et ce parc est entré en service à la Deutsche Bahn en 2011. Certaines rames BR442 pour le service ferroviaire le long de la Moselle ne comportent que deux voitures, comme on peut le voir ici à Coblence, en août 2014. Plus de photos à ce lien


An ICE 3M trainset leaves Brussels-Midi towards Liège, Cologne and Frankfurt. These trains have little in common with the previous ICE 1 and ICE 2 series. In 1994, the new DB launched a design competition, and it was the Munich-based firm Neumeister that came up with a new design within a very short time. The fundamental feature of the ICE 3 compared to the two previous versions is the distributed electrical traction chain along the trainset, making it a true high-speed self-propelled vehicle. It meets the increased requirements for interoperability promoted by the European Commission. More pictures here

Une rame ICE 3M quitte Bruxelles-Midi en direction de Liège et Francfort. Ces rames n’ont plus grand chose de commun avec les séries précédents ICE_1 et ICE 2. En 1994, la nouvelle DB lança un concours de design et c’est le cabinet Neumeister de Munich qui réinventa une nouvelle conception dans des délais très courts. La caractéristique fondamentale de l’ICE 3 par rapport aux deux versions précédentes est la motorisation répartie, ce qui en fait une véritable automotrice à grande vitesse. Il répond aux exigences accrues de l’interopérabilité promue par la Commission Européenne.  Infos techniques à ce lien.

The Mittelrheinbahn is a private company 100% owned by Transdev Deutschland. It operates a contract for local trains to Cologne-Coblenz-Mayence. It has leased Siemens Desiro Main Line tri-bodyshell railcars from Alpha Trains, which are classified as BR460 in Germany. One of this is waiting his departure at station Coblence in august 2014. More pictures here

Le Mittelrheinbahn est une compagnie privée appartenant à 100% à Transdev Deutschland. Elle opère un contrat de trains omnibus sur Cologne-Coblence-Mayence. Elle a loué chez Alpha Trains des automotrices tri-caisses Siemens Desiro Main Line, qui sont classée BR460 en Allemagne. Attente de départ à Coblence en août 2014.

The German Class 101 locomotives prefigures what will later become the BR145/146, and then the TRAXX, whose cabin’s fronts can already be recognized. The 145 Bombardier locomotives of this series were put into service between 1996 and 1999 and mainly carry out missions for mainline trains, exclusively under 15kV. Station Coblence in August 2014. More pictures here

La série allemande BR101 préfigure de ce qui deviendra par la suite la BR145/146, et in fine la TRAXX, dont on peut déjà reconnaître le fronton avant. Les 145 locomotives Bombardier de cette série ont été mises en service entre 1996 et 1999 et effectuent principalement des missions pour trains grandes lignes, exclusivement sous 15kV. Plus de photos à ce lien

Austria_Osterreich   Belgium_Belgique_Belgïe    France    Alemagne_Germany_Deutschland   Italy_Italia    Netherlands    Suisse_Switzerland   Czech_Republic.svg

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Belgium – Belgique – Belgïe – Belgien


It’s now an historical rolling stock. Very few of this were running still in 2020, but with the white livery. The SNCB’s class 60 to 70, with 331 Emus built between 1954 and 1978, consisted of an almost unified design, with two bodieshell, its first class and parcels/luggage space. Emu 237, here in Erbisoeul station in July 2004 still in red livery 80’s, is part of the 62/63/65 Class, designating its year of construction. This railcar was scrapped in 2014. More pictures here

Du matériel historique, pourtant pas si lointain. La longue série d’automotrices SNCB, 331 exemplaires construits de 1954 à 1978, a consisté en un design quasi unifié, avec deux caisses, sa première classe et son espace fourgon. La 237, ici à l’arrêt d’Erbisoeul en juillet 2004, fait partie de la tranche 62/63/65, désignant son année de construction.Ces tranches furent réformées en 2014. Quelques rares exemplaires étaient encore en service en 2019. Plus de photos à ce lien


The class 96 is an electric multiple unit built in 1996 for Intercity services . They incorporate features from the DSB IC3 trainsets in order to enable passage from one set coach to another. When two or more units are coupled together in a single train, the entire front door folds away to give a wide passage. Two series were built : Class 400 which fitted to run under 3kV DC and 25kV AC, to run in France (Lille, and recently Maubeuge). And Class 500 fitted only to run under 3kV in Belgium and Luxemburg. Class 562 (3kV) passing at Jurbise with a Brussels-Airport-Mons intercity service, February 20, 2013. (Click on image to enlarge).

L’AM 96 est une automotrice construite en 1996 pour les services intercity. Elles intègrent les caractéristiques des rames DSB IC3 afin de permettre le passage d’une voiture à l’autre. Lorsque deux ou plusieurs rames sont accouplées pour former un même train, la porte avant (et le poste de conduite) se replie entièrement pour offrir un passage. Deux séries ont été construites : la série 400 qui peut fonctionner sous 3kV DC et 25kV AC, pour circuler en France (Lille, et plus récemment Maubeuge). Et la série 500, qui ne peut fonctionner qu’en Belgique et au Luxembourg sous 3kV. L’AM 562 (3kV) passe à Jurbise avec un service intercity Bruxelles-Aéroport-Mons, le 20 février 2013. (Cliquer sur l’image pour un grand format)

The Class 21 locomotives is an icon of the SNCB in the 80s. The first locomotives appeared in 1984 and started their service under the first IC/IR plan. They were mainly used for passenger traffic, but their involvement in freight traffic was also a reality. Class 21s were still in service in 2020 but their scrapping has already begun. More pictures here

Les locomotives de la série 21 : une icone de la SNCB des années 80. Les premiers engins sont apparus en 1984 et débutèrent leur service dans le cadre du premier plan IC/IR. Elles seront essentiellement affectées au trafic voyageur mais leur engagement dans le trafic marchandise était aussi une réalité. Plus d’infos : SNCB locomotives série 21.

The belgian Class 20 locomotive: the first “thyristors locomotive” carried out of the factory ACEC (Ateliers de constructions électriques de Charleroi – now Alstom Belgium). It was the most powerful engine of the SNCB at the time. It was mainly seen in operation on the difficult Brussels-Namur-Arlon-Luxembourg line, towing long international overnight or freight trains. Here during an special trip at Marloie, just after it ceased operations. All engine were scrapped except one, which is in preservation. More pictures here

La série 20 : une locomotive “tout thyristors” sortie des cartons des ACEC pour booster l’industrie. Ce fut la plus puissante de la SNCB à son époque. On l’a principalement vu active sur la difficile ligne Bruxelles-Namur-Arlon-Luxembourg, remorquant de longs internationaux de nuit ou des trains de marchandises. Ici à Marloie lors d’un voyage spécial PFT, juste après la cessation de leur exploitation. Une seule a été préservée. Plus de détails : SNCB série 20

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NSB and Nettbuss are changing their names to Vy

04/27/2019 – That’s radical. The Norwegian public railway company NSB changes its name radically and becomes Vy. The change was mostly visible on the customers’ app, because nothing changes either for the staff or for the service of trains and buses of the old company.

Apart from Great Britain, which has made everything disappear, no historical enterprise in Europe has daring the first step, with the notable exception of the Italians (Trenitalia). It was a moment to change SNCF name with France Rail, but it has remained a dead letter.

The company says NSB is no longer a comprehensive name for its business, as privatisation has led to it becoming one of several companies competing to operate on the railway network in Norway. The selection of “Vy” reflects the ambition to create the transport solutions of tomorrow. The new brand gives trains and buses a common identity and shows customers that NSB is something new. View means views and is used to have ambitions – great views. The CargoNet freight subsidiary, which is part of the NSB Group, retains its brand.

The rolling stock, as well as the buses, will gradually take on a new green color, flanked by a new logo, which breaks with the brick red livery that we have known so far.

The NSB group is present in Norway and Sweden and includes NSB Persontog, Nettbuss, Swedish Tågkompaniet and CargoNet freight company. NSB employs more than 10,500 people in Norway and Sweden. Around 7,000 employees work on buses and 3,500 on trains. As in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Scandinavia, the Norwegian rail network is managed by a separate company, Bane Nor.

Trains with no staff on board: an infinite debate …

It is commonplace these days to play the ‘safety card’ to go to an emotional appeal that could well sway the public to a particular point of view, regardless of the true situation. The unaccompanied train is an emotional theme because it is social, cultural and therefore political. Widespread comment has appeared in the national and local press, rail magazines, radio and TV programmes and indeed questions have been bandied on the political level about it. Let’s put things back in order.

It is thus necessary from the outset to distinguish the “unaccompanied” train from the driverless train. Those are two different things. The first refers to a train driven by driver alone, where there is no train guards on board for the service. While the second is a train without driver, like some automatic metros. We had already mentioned the subject of the autonomous train some time ago.

The question of the train guards is of a more social nature, and therefore more political. This is where the debate heats up. In addition to answering passenger queries, checking tickets and assisting passengers with mobility issues embark and disembark the train safely, train guards are trained in operational safety and route knowledge, including being able to secure the doors safely, protecting the train as well as taking actions in case of disturbances. This means that two people must necessary to run a train.

It has been a long time since the question arose as to whether two people are still needed on the local and low-traffic lines. But we also note that on lines with very large flows, where stops are frequent, as on suburban network, the staff on board becomes of little use. What must be deduced from all this?

Various reasons…

Unions have stated that independent enquiries following train crashes have highlighted the importance of on-board staff trained in evacuation procedures and protection. Safety is therefore the most important reason for keeping staff on board.

But there is of course a social aspect behind all this, which is not negligible. The presence of staff on board reassures, especially at the end of the evening with the last trains, especially in the suburbs of cities, where the female customers are never very comfortable to back sole at home.

But there is also, for the users, the fact of being in order. Often, there is the queue at the ticket office or the vending machine, and sometimes the machine is out of order. Customers arrive very often at the last minute. And when they do not have a ticket, they are happy to find someone on board to buy one.

The second point concerns employment: becoming a train guard does not require a major university degree or an MBA. The job is reaching by anybody, especially for those who do not have the ability to study extensively and who can benefit, at the same time, of a job more “social” by contact with people. This social aspect of the railroad must not be neglected, even if the first role of the railway companies is not to compensate for the inadequacies of the social policy of the State.

There are nevertheless motivations to no longer place train guards on board. Spit, insults, rebellion, some train guards no longer want to work on the sensitive lines or at certain hours of the evening, when the gangs of young people rage or that the violent drunkards finish the evening without knowing where they go. This phenomenon of society is obviously widespread in all public transport, whether in buses, trams and subways, whose stations are, in the evening, without staff. This sensitive issue gives us a double equation: how to protect both staff and users on evening trains?

Train without staff

Many networks are thinking of operating some trains with only the driver.

In Austria, in ÖBB at the long-term, local and regional trains should only have the driver on board, it was said in 2010 already. Brigades would go “randomly” on trains and check tickets. This is a bit of the meaning that we find in other countries. This is not the case yet.

In 2016, SNCB in Belgium had intended to provide unaccompanied trains on board. The project was definitively rejected this spring by the company. The train crew, however, had already noted with bitterness that there was no more personnel compartment on the Emus Siemens Desiro, that confirm a project that had already matured much earlier in the 90s and 2000s.

There are debates in continental Europe on the subject of rail concessions. Some transport authorities do not oblige operators to systematically place a train guard on board. Trade unions in several countries argue that there is a distortion of competition, because on-board staff is mandatory in state-owned companies, that makes the tenders given to the transport organizing authorities more expensive than private operators. It is interesting to note that bidders who make rail concession offers without staff on board are called Keolis, Abellio or Arriva. In other words, subsidiaries of public enterprises. Doing elsewhere what you can not do at home …

Yet the train with driver alone already exists. Mainly on small local lines that do not have large flows. On the other hand, German S-Bahn and some suburban rail networks in Europe do not have staff on board either. On these networks, stations often have access gates, which control tickets or access passes. The train with driver alone is far from novelty.


At Deutsche Bahn, announces made directly by the driver on some local trains (photo OPNV report 2017)

In Denmark, the state-owned railway company DSB started implementing one-man operation on the commuter rail service S-train in Copenhague, in 1975. However, it is a railway network similar to a metro, where some stations have access gates.

At the start of 2013 DSB also used one-man operated trains on the two small regional rail lines Svendborgbanen and Aarhus nærbane. Trains operated by the private company Arriva on Jutland’s single-track rural network have also been operated by a single agent since 2003. The small railway company Nordjyske Jernbaner, which runs in most of the sparsely populated areas of northern Denmark, uses also the ‘driver only operation’ system.

In France, in 2014, nearly 6,500 of the 15,000 trains were operating without train guards on board. It was the result of an organization that appeared in the 1980s in Ile-de-France. The people of Ile-de-France are already accustomed to random checks on the validity of tickets made in the trains or on the platforms by brigades of three or four controllers. SNCF had set up the EAS system, which means in french “équipement avec agent seul”, only on TER, the french local trains, which obviously created a intense controversy.

On the ODEG, a private company around Berlin

In UK, DOO was negotiated in the 1980s. It is a Driver Only Operation. The driver is in sole charge of the train and is responsible for train movement control as well as door operation and the departure. It was first introduced on the Bedford – St Pancras route in 1982. It has been extended to other inner suburban routes around London and Glasgow and is now used on London Overground and Thameslink. On London Underground, DOO (known as OPO – One Person Operation) was introduced on the Circle and Hammersmith & City Lines in 1984 and was subsequently extended to all other lines by 2000 as a precursor to ATO on the lines referred to above. But concerning the subway, we do not really talk about the same thing, since the stations have access gates, so a real ticket control.

In the Netherlands, some local lines were granted in the 2000s to private operators. Arriva, Connexxion, Breng, Syntus and Veolia do not have a train guard, but an inspection brigade that travels occasionally. The NS public company, however, has kept its train guards, including on local trains.

A steward is however present on the Merwede-Lingelijn and the Vechtdallijnen of Arriva, for the verification of the tickets and the service. But recently, Qbuzz, who took over a local line at Arriva last December, can put fewer staff on board on his local trains. « We meet the requirements of the province », said spokeswoman Susan Zethof. « Train guards must be present on two-thirds of the trains, ie during rush hours or other peak periods. » There is no longer train guards during off-peak hours. It is interesting to note here that it was the provincial transportation authority, and not the mandated company, that take this decision.

On the future CEVA, the regional network of Geneva with its route in France, the driving since the french station Annemasse to Switzerland will be with driver alone, while on the French side the region will be free to choose and to negotiate with the unions, without consequences with Swiss practice. A beautiful demonstration of cultural differences. But that certainly suits the Swiss, who do not want to be held hostage by the French strikes as we saw in the spring of 2018. Each one with his social culture …

SNCB : curved perron at the station Bruxelles-Luxembourg. The train guard can’t see the whole train.

The fear of the accident

This thema comes up often. In a parliamentary session, the English union RMT recalled the “complexity of the old Victorian railway stations”, with its beautiful and very aesthetic supports, but which prevents to see properly the whole length of a train. It is generally accepted that driver-only operation is possible on trains of limited length, or on networks where stations have closed access, as on some German S-Bahn.

But in both cases, as recalls a French union, nothing prevents someone from falling between the platform and the train. If the argument is legitimate, it seems curious. This fall problem also applies to … metros, in which there is never accompanying staff.

However, it must be remembered that metros are classified in light trains, and that they therefore obey less restrictive rules. The railroad is subject to much stricter rules, as “heavy railroad”, and the evolution still increases the safety rules and societal change has further increased the safety rules, for fear of complaints and the strong consumer protection that is mostly the case in modern countries.

The technologies should make it possible, for example, to ensure that all the doors are closed before the train leaves. For example, using a single centralized screen. This is not the case on most rolling stock, where human visualization is still necessary. This induces the presence of a second person on board. Moreover, it is accepted by everyone that no system as sophisticated as possible can be 100% sure without failures. Many people forget that the human is also part of failures.


Will technology change the job? Broad issue and varied answers. Ticketing on long-distance trains already has an application.

In 2017, Deutsche Bahn was conducting a ticketless inspection experience called “Komfort Check-in“. You simply must to confirme by mobile phone that you took his place and thus validated the ticket – without human control. The technology was tested on two routes Dortmund-Stuttgart and Stuttgart-Essen. These tests were run on long-distance train services, and did not undertake on regional and local trains.

By 2018, this service was available on all mainline trains. But this is primarily a digitization operation. By loading an app, which is required to obtain the service, Deutsche Bahn obtains valuable information about its customers and can “retain them”. The staff is always present on long-distance trains in Germany and fulfill other commitments.

Paradoxes and confusion

Globally, the disappearance of the crew on long distance trains is not on the agenda. But the question remains with regard to regional trains, whose networks have “open” stations, without access gates, ie most of stations and stops in Europe.

As told Chris Jackson from Railway Gazette, throughout the history of the railway, staff roles have evolved in the face of technical innovation and economic necessity, and management, unions and regulators must recognise the inevitability of change. George Bearfield, director of system safety at the UK’s Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), believes that “some of the debate around the safety of DOO has really become confused and politicised”, which has not helped with “having a rational, objective view of risk”.

We have already seen trains canceled only because there was no staff on board, despite that the driver was effectively present to drive. These trains must then run empty to reach their original destination and return the train in the daily work schedule. A very big waste of public money and a disastrous picture of the railroad to the public.

On the other hand, citizens also have paradoxical ideas: they want staff everywhere, in trains, in train stations, at ticket offices, but they do not want this staff to be paid for just watching the trains go by or nothing to do because there is no customers to serve. So what ?…

More people pass through train stations and take the train. This certainly requires a lot more supervision in some of the busiest stations. The over-riding objective must be to ensure sufficient flexibility to deploy enough of the right people in the right places at the right time. It’s not easy…


References :

2009 – Zeit Online – Die armen, bösen Schaffner

2010 – Die Presse – ÖBB-Züge sollen wie U-Bahnen werden

2016 – Transportrail – Exploitation de CEVA : la confiance règne !

2016 – Rail Future/Jerry Alderson – Train staff duties

2017 – Railstaff – DOO – Analysed & Explained

2017 – Railway Technology – Driver-only trains and safety: what’s the big issue?

2018 – Spiegel Online – Komfort Check-in in allen ICE-Zügen verfügbar

2018 – The Independent – Train guards: what do they do and why are unions fighting to keep them?

2018 – / Chantal Blommers – Conducteur verdwijnt buiten de spits op MerwedeLingelijn

2019 – Deutsche Bahn – Travel without ticket checks




British rail freight before Brexit

Brexit is coming soon. It is therefore wise to give a final account of the state of rail freight in Britain before future events come to reconsider everything.

Railway is the backbone of the British economy. It employs around 240,000 people (passengers enterprises and manufacturers including), and moves 86 million tonnes of freight each year. Contrary to what is believed, British Rail was already been reorganised into “sectors” in year 1987:

  • Trainload Freight took trainload goods, with four sub-sectors coal, petroleum, metals and construction ;
  • Railfreight Distribution took non-trainload goods, like ground operations ;
  • Freightliner took intermodal traffic
  • Rail Express Systems took parcel traffic.

In 1986, quarrying company Foster Yeoman prompted a turnaround in the reliability of rail freight by obtaining permission to run its own trains, and importing the first four EMD class 59s. Although managed by the state-owned British Rail, these units already enjoyed semi-autonomous operations. The years 1988-89 recorded nearly 149.5 million tonnes transported.

In 1996, these sectors were easily sold to new operators. Over time, the fully privatized UK rail sector has consolidated and draws the landscape we know today.

Coal, still very present in British rail freight (photo Rob Reedman via license flickr)

Coal, first victim of british politics

As in Belgium, France or Germany, the British railway lived mainly through heavy industry. A peculiarity of Britain was its policy centered on its oil extracted in the North Sea, coal mines as well as coal-fired power plants. The famous British Rail service ‘merry go round’ thus maintained a typical traffic of the second industrial revolution. It was undermined by Thatcher’s policy with the closure of the collieries and the social seism that followed in the 1980s.

From this troubled period, there remained in Britain only coal-fired power plants. It was without counting the new ecological influence which imposes now to put an end to this last avatar of « the old world of the XXth century ». And this is noticeable in the recent figures.

The state of the art today

Most freight operations are run by ten private sector companies. There are no public subsidies for freight operations nor franchising operations, as for passenger services. British companies operate totally open access, in an area restricted to Great Britain alone.

The two largest freight operating companies (FOCs) are DB Cargo and Freightliner, with Colas Rail, Direct Rail Services (DRS), GB Railfreight (GBRf) and « the others » accounting for most of the rest. Various other companies run rail operations within their own manufacturing or production sites. Despite the diversification of the rail freight sector, heavy industry still strongly marks transportation figures.

Since the mid-1990s, the operators have invested over £2 billion in new locomotives, wagons and other capital equipment to enhance capacity and improve performance. They have introduced new wagons to cater for new flows, for example wagons designed to handle biomass and aggregates traffic. They have also introduced new diesel locomotives to haul longer and heavier trains, from the now omnipresent Class 66 to the Class 70 ‘Powerhaul’ locomotives for Freightliner and Colas, as well as DRS’s Class 68 and electric/ diesel Class 88 locomotives.

Freightliner and one of his Class 66 (photo Rob Reedman via license flickr)

Total volumes increased by over 65% from 13 billion net tonne kilometres in 1995/96 to over 22 billion in 2014/15. In 2015/16 volumes fell by about 20%, primarily due to a decline in coal traffic to power stations, but 2015/16 total volumes are still over 30% above 1995/96 levels. The decision to phase out coal-fired power stations in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions continues to affect the amount of coal lifted.

The biomass, waste and automotive sectors have also seen strong growth since 2011. The total for other goods lifted has been steadily rising in this period (2009-10 to 2016-17), however, they also recorded a decrease of 3.1% on last year to 65.3 million tonnes in 2017-18.

Globally, between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s, rail’s share of the market fell, but it has since increased its market share of the transport market from about 8 per cent to 11 per cent in 2010, in terms of tonne kms moved. Freight train movements totalled 224,000 in 2016-17, an average of 613 a day. Nonetheless, road continues to dominate the domestic freight market, accounting for approximately 89% of the transport market (68% of the total domestic freight market with coastal shipping and pipeline traffic).

The construction sector is using more and more railway. It could replace the decline of coal and ore.

It is therefore interesting to see how British rail freight has been able to gain market share in other sectors that are no longer part of heavy industry. The table below shows the distribution of rail freight. We see that intermodal transport is dominant. On the other hand, one can question the international sector, barely 3%, which indicates that serious efforts must be made with rail policy via the Channel Tunnel. We are very far from the dithyrambic projections of the 90s.

Sectoral breakdown for the period 2016-2017 (Network Rail)

Consumer goods

As reported Network Rail in a study, the size of the manufacturing sector has declined as a proportion of the national economy and there has been an increase in the volume of imported manufactured goods. This has affected rail freight in two ways:

  • Traditional bulk markets for rail, such as ESI coal (both domestic and import) and raw material supply for domestic steel production, have diminished substantially ;
  • The Import of goods by major ports, increased.

The net effect of these changes, together with the recent decline in flows linked to coal imports for the electricity supply industry, is that intermodal freight has become the largest single commodity sector conveyed by rail.

The ORR also notes a growth in the share of consumer goods. Recent rail freight figures show a positive future for rail freight in consumer goods and construction materials, which together now account for almost two-thirds of UK rail freight. With a 40% share of all freight moved by intermodal rail over the 12 months to April 2017, consumer goods sector recorded its highest share since 1998-1999 – and the highest for any sector since 2006-2007. Executive director of Rail Freight Group Maggie Simpson said: « The investment and efforts of train operators and their customers has delivered record-breaking results in construction and intermodal traffic, which we hope to see continue in the years ahead.» This is verified with the good performance of intermodal traffic. Port traffic accounts for 80% of total UK intermodal traffic, highlighting the importance of the container sector.

The port of Felixstowe is heavily focused on intermodal transport and has up to 66 daily trains from three terminals (photo portofFelixtowe)

The Port of Felixstowe is Britain’s largest container rail terminal with record-breaking throughput, and the broadest and most frequent range of services of any port in Britain. Three operators – DB Schenker Rail (UK), Freightliner and GB RailFreight – share the 66 daily arrivals and departures that connect 15 domestic destinations throughout Great Britain. Such traffic demonstrates that the vitality of the intermodal transport between the port sector and the terminals inside the country is possible when we give the possibility to various entrepreneurs to manage and create quality, with good prices, in the transport of maritime containers.

The Freightliner operator, which already existed in British Rail’s time, currently operates around 100 daily trains through a network of 12 railway terminals, 8 of which are owned. It carries nearly 770,000 containers a year.

Another sector is large-scale retailers, whose logistics are known to be an essential factor in the price war between large retailers. For this reason, this sector often avoids the use of rail, which is considered less flexible and too slow. He prefers to use road transport and avoid too large stock, very expensive. This is not the case for Tesco, the UK’s leading retailer with 12.5% ​​of the market and 3,500 points of sale throughout the UK. As a responsible retailer, Tesco places a high priority, according the entreprise, on meeting their environmental obligations. Working in partnership, Direct Rail Service and the Stobart Group have combined the very best of their road and rail capabilities to create a tailor made solution to meet Tesco’s requirements. The end result is a service which is providing highly efficient distribution between Tesco’s Daventry depot and Glasgow-Mossend. « This new service is part of our on-going commitment to be zero carbon by 2050, » said Nigel Jones, Tesco’s UK Logistics Director.

Stobart Group’s intermodal rail services operate 5 services a day, based at their hub rail terminal at DIRFT with rail services reaching all parts of the UK including Scotland’s central belt, Inverness and Aberdeen in the north down to Cardiff, South Wales and London and the South East. Stobart also has its own container terminal at Widnes (photo, between Manchester and Liverpool). This terminal is connected daily to Southampton and Felixstowe.

The Widnes terminal, entirely a property from Stobart (photo Stobart)

According Network Rail, statistical data attribute 20% of intermodal traffic to flows between non-port terminals.

Available capacities and trains length

In 2014, Network Rail created a ‘Capacity Management’ work stream with the aim of reviewing unused freight schedules. This was a collaborative work stream between Network Rail and all freight operators, intended to generate additional freight capacity without the need for infrastructure enhancements. In April 2017, the British network operator announced that almost 4,700 reserved train paths remained unused. According to the infrastructure manager, the spare capacity is attributable several factors including more efficient freight operations with longer and fuller trains, and better productivity with fewer, part-loaded freight trains, reducing wasted capacity. Paul McMahon, Network Rail’s managing director for freight and national passenger operators, said to Container-Mag: « Capacity has been freed up for the whole railway but essential capacity is reserved for freight operators. This is important given the need to support the growth of freight on the network to support the economy. »

A key driver of rail freight’s advantage relative to road is its ability to carry a greater volume of goods per journey. Where the length of trains is restricted by infrastructure limitations, this competitive advantage is diminished. Train length capability is also reliant on adequate loading and unloading facilities at ports and terminals, highlighting the need for integration across the industry.

Relatively light goods, like swap bodies, containers and automotive, are the main beneficiaries of longer trains as the traction power necessary to haul them is more readily available. For intermodal trains, the current aspiration from Network Rail is to achieve a length of 775m (including locomotive). A long-term aspiration exists across the industry to research the possibility of running trains of even greater length, for example 1500m for automotive trains.

Retrouver des capacités sur le réseau britannique (photo Bob “the lomond” via licence flickr)

And tomorrow ?

We would have liked to start the year 2019 with a note of hope. We can’t brings to that, because Brexit is certainly not a positive reference. Rail Delivery Group is clear about the impact of Brexit on UK rail freight: « The smooth flow of goods between the UK and EU is critical to the transport sector. Any changes to the tradin relationship with the EU will be faced by the transport sector in the first instance. The Channel Tunnel is the only physical link between Britain and mainlined Europe and one in four containers that arrive in British ports make their onward journey by rail. »

The port sector is expected to be hit hard in the truck segment from Europe via ferries. However, these trucks do not take the train in Britain because of a problem of gauge. Only swap bodies could be impacted. On the other hand, the containers are rather part of the ‘overseas’ market and will probably have to be treated with new customs rules. This may further obstruct the port terminals and an impact on rail traffic is to be expected. The Rail Delivery Group therefore proposes the creation of new Railway Customs Areas (RCAs) at rail freight terminals to avoid the need for a single border checkpoint.

It only remains to wait for the 2019 figures to get an idea of ​​the situation ….



References :

Network Rail – Freight Network Study

Les utilisateurs du fret ferroviaire

Raildeliverygroup – Brexit and the rail industry: policy asks


Regiojet, the czech growing private railway company         

The Czech Regiojet is now a private company well established in the railway landscape of Central Europe, as it operates its trains in three countries.

Regiojet is the largest private passenger rail operator in the Czech Republic. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Student Agency, an agency created in 1993 by Radim Jančura, who was an entrepreneurial student of the University of Brno, the second largest city in the country. Jančura benefited from the implementation, in Czech legislation, of the European Directive 2007/58 / EC – which endorses open access by allowing the possibility of cabotage – and which allows Czech Republic to receive subsidies from the State in return for a tariff commitment for students and certain other social groups, including on bus lines. As the business of the student agency bus network is precisely the student customers, Radim Jančura, assisted by Keolis on the practical issues (SNCF), is convinced that he can do the same business with railways. Thus was born Regiojet…

The boss, Radim Jančura , near one of his trains…

As the Czech legislation no longer “protects” the České dráhy (CD, the railway incumbant), the new firm was able to register as a railway company on 6 October 2009. Unlike Leo Express, WESTBahn or NTV-Italo, Regiojet did not choose new rolling stock but for used cars.

This was particularly timely. Since 2008, the Austrian neighbor has launched its famous Railjets, meaning the sidelining of many of the excellent UIC “Z” cars, which made up former ÖBB Intercity / Eurocity trains, and whose reputation was not more to prove. As the ÖBB put a lot of these cars on sale, Radim Jančura bought some. In Italy, Ferrovie Nord Milano wanted to get rid of its 3kV E 630 machines… from Czech origin Skoda. Radim Jančura also bought them and them back to the country, in the Metrans Dyko workshop in Kolin.

First trains, with locomotives Skoda (photo Martin Hefner via wikipedia)

With a fleet of 9 locomotives and 28 cars, Regiojet began its first service in September 2011 on the Prague – Ostrava (- Zilina) route. The livery resumes that of buses of Student Agency: yellow egg, not wanting to go unnoticed. On board, customers can enjoy the same services and amenities as buses, including the full wifi, tested by myself. A simple confirmation e-mail takes the place of a ticket!

Today, Radim Jančura’s company’s fleet has:

– +/- 90 passenger cars, including refurbished ÖBB and CFF with an order for 70 new cars at the Romanian factory Astra;

– Skoda locomotives and new TRAXX to deliver;

– 370 contractual employees.

These new cars are not registered in the Czech Republic but in Austria. CEO Radim Jančura explains this curious policy by the bad experience that he encountered in his early times with the Czech National Vehicle Registration Authority, which seemed to want to create some trouble for the newcomer. Among the cars, the Bmpz 20-90 from the Romanian Astra are an exception: they have entertainment touchscreen like airliners, the same that also equip the buses of Regiojet. This was the first railway european company to do that in 2017, as no railway company had yet introduced this amenities.

New passenger cars Astra, with touchscreens (press photo Michal Sula MAFRA)

At Regiojet, it’s the type of ticket – and its price – that makes the comfort in four levels:

Business: leather seat in 4-seater compartments, drinks, tea of ​​your choice, wifi and Czech and Slovak newspapers;

Relax: first class six-seater compartment, drinks, tea of ​​choice, wifi and Czech and Slovak newspapers;

Standard: seating in classic 6-seater compartments, no WiFi, or 2 + 2 seats in Astra cars with free Wi-Fi and touchscreen entertainment.

Low-cost: 2 + 2 seats in the greatest simplicity, without any service, thanks to the Swiss eurocity cars sold by SBB!

There are no exclusive and limited special offers that are only valid for a few passengers and must be booked weeks in advance, like in others railways. Even until a few minutes before the departure of a RegioJet ticket, the same price is applied unless the train is complete. All passengers enjoy full service on RegioJet.

>>> See more pictures of Regiojet trains (in french)

Despite of various confusions related to the local politics, where Radim Jančura makes some enemies, the business works. Rapidly, the capacity of the trains increased from 240 to 400 places in 2012, with trains every two hours. RegioJet works in open access, and competes not only face to CD’s railways, which also works their own Intercity, but also a third concurrent, Leo-Express. In total, including the public company, the Prague-Ostrava route is operated by three operators: 5 LEO-Express trains, 11 Regiojet and 10 Ceske Drahy, 26 pairs of trains per working day, which is considerable for a small country like the Czech Republic. Implacable observation: the CDs reacted with marketing, modern equipment and tariff cuts, that prove that the Czech railway public service was not put to death.

One of the 8 TRAXX from Bombardier, leased by EIL

There are also details that matter. If Regiojet is to be self-financing on the Prague-Ostrava route, like all the carriers present, a dispute occured concerning the subsidies for student tickets. They use the four comfort classes offered by Regiojet. The Ministry of Transport investigated the private firm, noting that, although notified as “second class”, cars offering the Business and Relax classes, formerly ÖBB first, could be considered as first class disguised in Czech Republic. According the ministery, in this case, the “student” grant did not apply … Accused of receiving more subsidies than needed from the state in 2014, Radim Jančura replied that « state compensation for social groups represents only 8% of my tariff range. The Czech railways of the entire network receive a total compensation of 255% of the tariff revenue, even for the long distance services that we operate without operating subsidies. Certainly, the amount paid by the State for the compensation of discounted rates is not small, but it is thirty times lower than what it pays to the state carrier. » In any case, Regiojet’s most expensive ticket is well below the first-class tariffs of CDs, the public company.

First classe for ministery, second for Regiojet… (photo wikipedia)

Since then, business has progressed to Slovakia (Kocise and Bratislava) and to Austria to Vienna, extending an existing service to Breclav, close to the border. To enter Austria, Regiojet uses services from BGK (Bahn Graz-Köflach), which is the company that provides the technical service in Austria for Regiojet (request train paths, train management, maintenance …). In Vienna-Hauptbahnhof, the arrival of Regiojet on December 10, 2017, with its four Vienna-Prague round trips for 19 euros, has provoke some tensions with the ÖBB regarding the allocation of a sales area in the main austrian station. A case reminiscent of the setbacks of NTV-Italo on access to Italian stations … In two months of launching, nearly 120,000 passengers had boarded the yellow trains of the Czech private company, with a young and university clientele.

In 2017, nearly 4 million travelers choose Regiojet. For the first nine months of 2018, the company recorded a 30% increase with 4 million passengers, which is attributed to the new route Prague-Brno-Vienna. This connection alone attracted nearly 700,000 travelers over the same period, which proves that the opening of markets generates a strong modal shift. At this rate, Regiojet could close the year 2018 by exceeding 5 million travellers, an average increase of 25%…

Vectron engines from Siemens, in waiting the arrival of TRAXX

As the ticketing is mainly digital, one can easily imagine the mass of data that passes through the servers of the company, a gold mine for marketing. The Regiojet brand is spreading on many websites outside the continent, attracting tourists from Vienna to Prague on their trip to Europe. In late November Aleš Ondrůj, the company spokesman, told the local press that « RegioJet is gradually becoming the main carrier on the Prague – Brno – Bratislava / Vienna line [as well as soon] on Prague – Ostrava – Košice, where RegioJet is [today] the main carrier. » It should be noted however that the state-owned company CD aligns in front 7 CD Railjets on the same line Prague-Vienna, bringing to 11 the round trips available between the two capitals.

Après la Slovaquie, Regiojet se lance dans la concession régionale de service public en Tchéquie, avec ici le projet d’une automotrice PESA (Pologne).

With the success of his trains services, Radim Jančura sells his buses and wants to concentrate exclusively on the railway. In the near future, the company will be able to count on the new public service concession which operates from December 2019, and for 8 years, on a regional network – what is new – for the line R8 Brno – Přerov – Ostrava – Bohumín. As the state-owned company CD presented an offer of 2.22 billion crowns, Regiojet had responded with a project 50 million cheaper …

The Czech Republic, which was not really expected on the european railway open access, is an instructive example of the opening of long-distance passenger rail markets. It is time for the big German neighbor, who opened his regional market so well, to become aware of this reality …

ScotRail invests for the future

(version en français)

ScotRail is not very well known on the Continent, but well in Great-Britain. This public rail network covers the whole of Scotland and is very dynamic. Scotland is a constituent nation which is inside the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Since the late-1990s, a system of decentralisation has emerged in the UK, under which Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have each been granted some measure of self-government within the UK, which is often referred to as “devolved powers”.

Railways are “devolved powers”. The Rail franchising system in Great Britain was created by the Railways Act 1993. Franchising allows a private operator to provide rail services on the rail network. Scotland, which has its own government, is therefore free to operate its rail network as it sees fit. He also decides who will operate the rail network.

The scottish style

The ScotRail brand was created by British Railways Scottish Region manager Chris Green in the mid 1980s to provide a distinctive brand for the rail network in Scotland. The brand has developed and is still in use today. Since 2008, it is the permanent name of the Scottish franchised rail services, regardless of the train operating company that operates them.

The railway network is owned by the national Network Rail, the non-profit organisation responsible for all of the railway infrastructure. Rail services are provided under franchises awarded by the scottish government. The Scotrail franchises have been operated since 1997, successively by National Express, First Group and currently Abellio. However, despite the arrival of Brexit, the London government does not plan to transfer the Scottish part of Network Rail to the Scottish regional Government.

Transport Scotland was created on 1 January 2006 as the national transport agency of Scotland. It is an Executive Agency of the Scottish Government and accountable to Scottish Ministers. In September 2010 Transport Scotland merged with Transport Directorate of core Scottish Government. They continue to be called Transport Scotland although they now have responsibility for all transport related issues across Scotland, including aviation, rail, transport policy,…

Network Rail Scotland looks after Scotland’s railway infrastructure – 2.776km of railway lines, including the world-famous Forth Bridge that connects passengers in Fife, north of Edinburgh. Main railway lines:

– the East Coast Mainline ;

– the West Coast Mainline ;

– the Highland Mainline from Perth to Inverness ;

– the Borders Railway from Edinburgh to the Borders ;

– the West Highland Line from Mallaig and Oban in the Scottish Highlands to Glasgow ;

– the Edinburgh to Aberdeen from Edinburgh to Aberdeen.

The Forth Bridge is a cantilever railway bridge across the Firth of Forth in the east of Scotland, 14 kilometres west of Edinburgh City Centre.

ScotRail provides over 94 million passenger journeys each year, with over 2,300 intercity, regional and suburban rail services a day and more than 340 stations. In october 2014, the Dutch company Abellio wins the new franchise, and It was confirmed that the main lines are the aim of the “Rail Revolution” desired by Scotland. The franchise, previously held by First Group, runs until 2025. The decision to give the £2.5billion contract to Abellio has triggered a political row.

Their bid included plans for cut-price fares to jobseekers, free Wi-Fi and advance £5 fares between Scots cities along with a vow to put on more trains. But transport unions and Labour condemned the award of the 10-year deal to a company based overseas.

Electrification programme

Of the 2,776 km of rail track in Scotland 25.3% (711 km) is electrified. The Glasgow main station had already received the 25kV catenary in May 1974 as a part of the electrification of the WCML. Edinburgh Waverley station received his 25kv in 1991 only, on the occasion of the electrification of the ECML. As a result, there was no electrification between the two cities, which came only late through the EGIP program.

Work completed during 2014 on the £80 million pound electrification of the Cumbernauld line, which was the first major electrification element of the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme (EGIP). In October 2017, the Glasgow-Edinburgh line was entirely electrified. The fastest journey times between Glasgow and Edinburgh taken now 42 minutes. This represents a major step in a country that remains historically focused on diesel railways.

New rolling stock

With around 7,000 new rail vehicles on order to replace more than half of the passenger rolling stock fleet, Britain’s trains are about to change as never before. Scotland is no exception. Scotrail is transforming all of its rolling stock: Hitachi Emu’s class 385 comes to regional services, old HSTs reconfigured for long distance services and new train sets for the Caledonian Sleeper, the night train to London.

New regional trains

the Edinburgh to Glasgow main line is currently operated by a mix of trains. As well as the Class 170 DMUs that have been operating the service since 2000, ScotRail has arranged for Class 380 EMUs (released from Ayrshire and Inverclyde services) and Class 365 EMUs (surplus units leased from Eversholt) to operate the service.

Hitachi Rail Europe supplies Abellio with 70 electric multiple units (Emus), which will form 46 three-car trains and 24 four-car trains (234 rail cars). These will run on the newly electrified Edinburgh-Glasgow line as well as on the Stirling – Alloa – Dunblane lines. In July 2018, Scotrail/Abellio commissioned its new trains, the Class 385. These seven-coach trains (set 3 cars + set 4 cars) have 479 seats which is 27 per cent more than the Class 170 DMUs operating on the route. Eight-coach Class 385 trains (2 four cars) have 546 seats.

The new Class 385 trains started rolling on the Glasgow-Edinburgh electrified line (photo ScotRail)

Long distance services

The train service between Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen currently has 15 intercity roundtrips, including 3 trains from London by the East Coast franchise. Between Glasgow and Aberdeen, there is a clock timetable with 16 round trips on weekdays, by the Class 170 Turbostar Dmu.

It is worth remembering that ScotRail do not serves intercity links with London. The Glasgow-London line is managed by the West Coast Main Line franchise, managed by Virgin until 2022. The Edinburgh-Newcastle-York-London route is managed by the most controversial franchise: East Coast Main Line. 

In 2012, Transport Scotland published the results of its rail passenger service consultation. This considered how the railway should develop and the types of passenger services required. One conclusion from this consultation exercise was that passengers traveling from central Scotland to Aberdeen and Inverness much preferred to travel in Virgin Trains East Coast High Speed Trains (HSTs) from Glasgow or Edimburg than ScotRail’s Class 170 diesel multiple units (DMUs). Transport Scotland discussed how to change its long-distance rail transport. Its results were incorporated into the specification for the ScotRail franchise which was renewed in 2014. New trains were an option, as was the reconstruction of what many consider to be the best passenger train ever built in Britain: the HST 125.

Nearly 70 venerable – and iconic – HST 125 trains are being replaced in Britain by the Hitachi 800 class IETs. They will not be scrapped because Scotrail is taking over 54 engines and 121 cars, leased from Angel Trains, to form 17 Intercity trainsets of 5 cars and 9 sets of 4 cars. They are therefore shorter sets framed by two engines. Angel Trains Chief Executive Malcolm Brown said: « The fleet will undergo interior and technical improvements prior to entering into passenger service, to ensure that it can meet the requirements of modern inter-city travels. »

New look for the shortened HST 125 (photo ScotRail)

The DG Design office was taking part in the new HST branding under the Scotrail brand. DG Design has created a new brand identity for the HST service, developing the exterior livery and interior colour palette & finishes. The livery features iconic landmarks representing the seven major cities served, reinforcing its inter-city credentials. The technical refurbishment of the power cars was done through Brush Loughborough while the Mark III cars were refurbished at Wabtec Rail in Doncaster. ScotRail’s ‘new’ HSTs will provide 40 per cent more seats on their intercity routes, which will no doubt soon be filled. As a result of this new generation of HSTs, Scotrail has been able to connect the seven main Scottish cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Perth, Stirling, Aberdeen, Dundee and Inverness as early as 2018-2019. The existing Dmu’s will be introduced on shorter routes with more frequency, which is beneficial for everyone.

The line to Aberdeen was this week the first to receive the HSTs for ScotRail – a strategic decision as they already run on the route (operated by Virgin Trains East Coast). The SR’s Haymarket depot will be the future home of the HSTs. Inverness and Aberdeen depots currently service Virgin East Coast HSTs, ScotRail DMUs and Mark 3 Caledonian Sleeper coaches. Soon they will handle East Coast Class 800 bi-mode units, ScotRail HSTs and the new Mark 5 Caledonian Sleeper coaches as well as some ScotRail Dmus.

This new HST fleet will provide a 33 per cent increase in capacity on Scotland’s internal inter-city network. Their high power-to-weight ratio will deliver the reduction in journey times required by the franchise specification and ensure the severe gradients in the highlands are not a problem.

That said…

However, it remains surprising that ScotRail does not put more cars on trains that many customers find crowded. Austrian Railjets have at least 7 cars. Most Intercity in Germany or Italy have 6 to 10 cars. As the British gauge bans double-decker rolling stock, ScotRail, like all companies in Britain, can only rely on longer train lengths and higher frequency. The option of HST 3 or 4 cars is certainly economical, but it would have been better to remain with the complete 8 car’s set. High frequency also means sufficient tracks to receive all trains in Glasgow and Edinburgh stations, and a process that allows these trains to quickly leave these major stations to allow free tracks for subsequent trains, and so on. In many stations in Europe, some platform have a sufficient lenght which accept 2 different train sets, as on the dutch network.

New night trains

The London-Scotland night train exists since … 1873! In 1995, shortly before privatization, the service of the two night trains was transferred to ScotRail, which relaunched the service in 1996 under the name of ‘Caledonian Sleeper’. In 1997, the new ScotRail franchisor, National Express, took over the operation, followed in 2004 by First Group. In 2012, ScotRail announced that the Caledonian Sleeper would be a separate franchise. The Scottish government announced a massive investment of £ 100m (€ 127m in 2012). In May 2014, the franchise was awarded to Serco with a commitment to replace the Mark 2 and Mark 3 coaching stock by 2018.

The Serco Group is active in multiple UK sectors like in the health, immigration, utilities and transportation sectors. It forms with Abellio a 50/50 joint venture that has exploited the Northern Rail franchises (since taken over by Arriva) and is still active on Merseyrail (Liverpool). On 31 March 2015, Serco Caledonian Sleepers Limited took over the operation of the Caledonian Sleeper. 

There are two Caledonian-Sleeper, which serve two distinct areas of Scotland. The first leaves London Euston at 21h and serves the north of Scotland in three branches to Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William. The second train is very late departure and leaves Euston at 23:50 with two branches that separate at Carlisle: one to Glasgow, the other to Edinburgh. Both trains will be fully renewed with an investment of £ 100 millions (€ 110 million), covered by the £ 60 million from Scottish Government. This resulted in the order of 75 cars at the Spanish manufacturer CAF, in the Basque country. The first five cars were delivered last July and are currently being tested on the UK network. Peter Strachan, president of Serco-Rail UK, is determined to make Caledonian-Sleepers “the new symbol of Scotland”. The first full sets are scheduled for May or June 2019.

One of the CAF Mark 5 vehicle of the new Caledonian Sleeper (photo CAF)

Design of the interior of the sleeping-car (photo CAF)

Next step

British railway infrastructure manager Network Rail is planning to invest £4bn in Scotland railways between 2019 and 2024 in a bid to maintain and enhance the rail network in the area.

On the political side, Transport Scotland has published its strategy for investment in rail improvements that sets out how funding will be targeted over the next 10 years. The new Scottish Government is to form an infrastructure commission to advise ministers on how spending should be directed to provide most economic benefit. According Public Technology, the challenge with that though ‘is trying to imagine what some of those challenges will be in the next 20 years, with autonomous vehicles coming down the line, the way we can use digital to help manage traffic systems, new rolling stock, behavioural changes around how people use public transport.

Of course, the franchise system is at the heart of a battle that is shaking all British politics. Labor wants to renationalize ScotRail as in the good old days. Alex Hynes, Managing Director of ScotRail Alliance, responds : ‘we are delivering one of the biggest upgrades to our network since Victorian times. That demonstrates the hard work of our dedicated staff at the ScotRail Alliance, a partnership between Abellio ScotRail and Network Rail. But we aren’t complacent. The major investment we are making now will mean faster journeys, more seats and better services for our customers.

We will see if these good arrangements will transform Scotland’s rail transport. ScotRail will need to pay close attention to the availability of rush hour seats. A sustainable development policy, which is announcing even more passengers on the railways, must not ignore the problem of capacity, both at infrastructure level and at train level.


Scotrail HST, par le bureau DG Design

ScotRail’s ‘new’ HSTs – Rail Engineer

Strategic Business Plan 2019 – 2024: Scotland 

Abellio in Scotland

Chemin de fer n°566, 2017/5 (french magazine)

Public Technology

From everywhere to everywhere. The future clock-face schedule in Germany

Every hour, at the same time, all over Germany! People travel more often by train if the service is correct. Key elements are intelligent and coordinated trains connections in train stations.

Half of the long-distance travelers in Germany use local transport on their journey to reach their destination. This means that one should not focus solely on the main lines traffic. What is the point of a trip from Buxtehude to Cottbus, with an ICE between Hamburg and Berlin at 230 km/h, if the traveler must to wait more than three quarters of an hour on the platform for connection? So there would be no clock-face schedule in Germany?

Not the same requirements

In reality, the clock-face schedule is operated on two separate commercial segments. The first concerns long-distance traffic entirely managed by Deutsche Bahn and its many ICEs. Since 1979, Deutsche Bahn has been offering connections every hour between the big German cities, with the success we all know. So far, the idea was that few long-distance travelers would take a local train to continue their journey. This is the principle of air travel.

Long distance customers do not have the same needs as regional commuters (april 2018, Berlin-Hbf, photo

The second segment is the local traffic: it is not the same customers. Deutsche Bahn managed – and still manages – this traffic separately, without paying too much attention to long-distance segment travelers. The main argument that is often defended is that local customers have other expectations compared to long-distance customers. It is therefore necessary to construct timetables adapted to school hours, offices, etc.

The networks that have adopted the clock-face schedule have shown that it favors connections and that it increases traffic, as in the Benelux countries or in Switzerland. The Lander have also built a clock time schedule on the regional segment, adapted to the requests of their customers. What is problematic is the coincidence between the arrival of the long-distance Intercity and the immediate connections with the local trains. In some cases, there is a gap of 20 to 40 minutes, which is dissuasive for the long-distance traveler.

All regional or local lines do not necessarily have one train per hour (photo Schnitzel_bank via license flickr)

From everywhere to everywhere

Associations have taken up this problem of connections between long-distance trains and local traffic. In 2008, the VCD (Verkehrsclub Deutschland), an environmental association, as well as other German associations, founded the “Deutschland-Takt” initiative (literally the “German clock”). The future of transport in Germany is becoming clearer every day: more inhabitants tomorrow means more trips and a carbon footprint that must absolutely be controlled. For this growth of travel to be sustainable, we must move the population as much as possible towards trains services. But the rail network is not able today to absorb this growth.

The concept: adding long-distance traffic (fernverkehr), various regional Lander traffic (nahverkehr) and freight flows (Güterverkehr)

In 2015, the project is taken seriously. A study by the Federal Ministry of Transport concludes that a clock-face schedule in Germany is possible. The report states that this concept will increase the number of connections and reduce the total duration of journeys. The German clock time schedule is to make the railway system more attractive for a large number of people by means of tailor-made synchronization of the network in passenger rail transport. The trains must be running at regular intervals, for example every 30 or 60 minutes, and go to each hub stations in Germany. They leave after a short time to avoid waiting and transfer time too long. This connected network multiplies the connections and therefore the attractiveness of the railways. In rail freight transport, the introduction of an clock time schedule should allow for greater train path availability. Enak Ferlemann, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Transport, conveys the vision of the federal government for the year 2030 and told Die Welt: ‘The railway will have state-of-the-art trains, be on time, will no longer produce greenhouse gas emissions and will offer much better supply than today, especially in metropolitan areas.’ In theory…


Le concept d’horaire cadensé, en graphique…

To take the realities into account

The clock-face schedule is not a miracle pill. Current realities of the infrastructure and the reliability of the trains also count for a lot. At the moment, the German rail network can count on nearly 1000 worksites per day. Punctuality is catastrophic: less than 70% of trains arrive on time while Deutsche Bahn has already set a rate of 85% for years. Only one on six ICE initially works without technical problems (toilets or air conditioning down, no restaurant, missing car, bad maintenance, faulty reservation system, etc.). It is the CEO of the DB, Richard Lutz, who says it. Added to this is a growing number of “non-railway” incidents, such as theft of cables or people along the tracks. Whereas rail traffic is paralyzed, highways do not have these problems. And the citizen knows it: with the Waze app, the citizen is able to bypass incidents and traffic jams…

These negative elements strongly degrade the clock-face schedule, since the schedule is no longer respected. Except in one case: when the local traffic is composed of a train every 15 minutes, the delay of an ICE is “less serious”. But such local traffic only exists on regional high-traffic lines, around big cities like Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Berlin or Munich. For lower traffic lines, the Lander build generally schedules with one train per hour. In this case, the delay of an ICE is much more problematic. In the best case, the local train is waiting for the latecomer. But it irritates the local commuters who suffer a delay that does not concern them!

In large cities, the amount of S-Bahn does not pose a problem of connections (Berlin-Hbf, photo

At the political level, the Lander are responsible – and pay – for local train traffic. They are very attentive to the quality of the service and the punctuality provided by their operators. They do not intend to “pay” for the setbacks of the national DB by delaying “the trains of their own voters”, as recalled by a fiery regional minister.

Moreover, the question arises of which compensation that should be paid when local operators, ready to leave and perfectly on time, are ordered to wait for an Intercity late. These details are not regulated everywhere in the same manner. It is true that the question also arises in the opposite direction. Should an Intercity wait for a local train late? On another scale, we know that buses often wait for trains, but that trains never wait for buses late because they paralyze the tracks …

Upcoming improvements

Improvements for a clock-face schedule involve infrastructure solutions and the adoption of digital tools. This is what Enak Ferlemann recalls: ‘The construction of new tracks is expensive, the approval process is long and faces fierce resistance from the inhabitants.’ Putting more trains on existing tracks ‘means that current control and safety technology of signalization needs to be replaced by electronic systems, which means that trains can travel at shorter intervals, allowing for more dense traffics. Therefore, the railways must be digitized section per section. It is expected that it will increase rail capacity by 20%. I think it’s too optimistic. If we reach 10%, it would be good.’ says the Secretary of State.

The other part is the reliability of the trains, denounced by the CEO of the DB. Digital tools can help. But they cannot solve all problems encountering either. Team management in the workshops will have to be adapted, which is often a problem at the social level.

The clock-face schedule can obviously extend to urban transport and local buses. That becomes a large public transport organized and connected. But how to deal with incidents of only one operator of the chain? That’s the whole question. The concept of Mobility As A Service (MaaS) should be an help. But the MaaS presents in real time only what is actually operational and available. This is not a problem around the big cities, where service offers are plentiful. In case of incident, we can fall back on other choices. This is not the case in less urbanized areas, where the offers would remain weaker, MaaS or not.

The clock-face schedule is in any case part of the BVWP 2030 government plan. 41.3% of the projects are for rail transport and alone represent around € 109.3 billion. Which is considerable. It is no longer a question of engaging in sumptuary spending, but to upgrade the rail network.

The rail part of the BVWP 2030 plan. In red, urgent needs in infrastructure rehabilitation… (photo BMVI)

Deutsche Bahn, meanwhile, must put pressure on quality and operating costs. It has lost 27% of regional traffic over the last decade, to other companies that can make the train cheaper and more efficient. The DB faces a vast shortage of train drivers. The job maybe have to be upgraded but without creating billionaire employees, which would have an impact on the ticket prices. Digital tools will also be able to evolve the whole sector, such as semi-automated driving, predictive maintenance, traveler orientation and mobile service offerings.

Regarding the latter theme, Secretary of State Enak Ferlemann wonders: ‘Of course, passengers want a door-to-door service, so a complete chain of transport. The question is whether Deutsche Bahn has to offer a complete offer, from the train to the bike and the rental car. Or if the company should focus only on its core business and if other operators could take over the last few miles.’ The federal government’s job will be to ensure that the interfaces work perfectly when changing means of transport. A huge challenge …



Die Welt : Jetzt soll der „Deutschland-Takt“ die Bahn retten

The BVWP 2030 plan

Deutschland-Takt – Immer gut verbunden

Infrastruktur für einen Deutschland-Takt im Schienenverkehr

VVO online


Autonomous trains: a brief review

(version en français)

Innotrans is off. The next edition will take place in 2020, in Berlin. At this date, will we talk more about the autonomous train that is announced everywhere? We are going to peruse the latest innovations on this theme.

Automatic metros have been around for a long time. There are some examples in London with the Jubilee Line and the Dockland Railway, as well as Paris on line 14 or Lille with VAL. By the end of 2013, there were 48 fully automated public metro systems in use in 32 countries, according UITP. The major innovation is the autonomous car. Why ?

Because the examples of automatic metros show that they work in fact in closed loops.‘All these systems have no obstacle detection and assume a free line’ explains Burkhard Stadlmann, a professor of at the U​niversity of Applied Sciences Upper Austria. When the trains are the same length, run all day long according to repetitive criteria and stop at all stations that have the same length of perron, then the automation becomes relatively “easy”. But none of this exists with the concept of autonomous cars. Indeed, the ability to drive autonomously in heterogeneous environments without GPS, pattern identification (e.g. road following), or artificial landmarks is key to field robotics. To address this challenge, it is necessary to use technological building blocks in the form of GPS, radar/LiDAR, infrared and ultrasonic sensors, cameras, inertial systems and more. Automation software must be developed for autonomous vehicle process flows.

We are running here to more complexity field than an ‘simple’ automatic metro. Autonomy means indeed instantly recognize its environment, which changes every meter, that the computer must translate to take a decision immediately. So, thousands of data must be captured, assembled and decoded in a few seconds. The main challenge is to recognize if there is an obstacle in front of you, and what decision you must take. When there is a vehicle in front of you, either it rolls at the same speed as you, and just follow it, or it brakes, and you also immediately have to break to avoid a collision. Currently, the only signal available that shows a vehicle braking in front of you are the rear red headlights, and it’s only your eyes that “grab the message”. With the autonomous vehicle, the rear red headlights are of no use. So something else was needed. This “thing”, that’s a permanent calculation of distance and approach between the vehicles. It is therefore necessary to answer in thousandths of a second so that, as soon as the vehicle detected in front of you brakes, immediately your autonomous vehicle brakes too. Unfortunately, this is not possible with trains! Why ?

Because trains have a much higher distance between them than in road vehicle flows. No LIDAR or sensors can measure the train that is far ahead of you. Currently, trains run through blocks (2 km or more), in which they are alone. Once a block is free, the next train can enter. Each block is protected by a lineside signal. This system is still in effect, even with visual signaling is available in the driver’s cab, as on high-speed trains or in ETCS level 2: one train per block. As long as the block in front of you is busy, you do not enter, the signal is red and the speedometer shows you a speed of “zero”. You are stopped until the ‘freedom’ of the block. The information that tells you that the block is free is delivered by a track circuit in the rails. When it no longer detects metal masses in the rails, it means that there is no train in the block, with a certainty of almost 100%. So you can enter the next block, its signal is green or yellow, and the ETCS level 2 speedometer tells you with which speed you can enter.

At most the blocks have a small length, at most you can send trains on a line, generally between 8 and 12 trains per hour and per direction. On small local lines, some blocks have a very large length, which means that the flow is much lower, for example 2 to 3 trains per hour.

What conclusions can be drawn from this ?

The first element is that train detection means a lot of on-line equipment and cables to lay along the track. This requires maintenance and major purchases. Everyone knows that electrical and electronic equipment are very expensive, even when you buy a high quantity. The electronics and electricity sector is very lucrative. As a result, a railway line is de facto very expensive, and even more so if it is electrified. Of course, these investments are designed for the long term.

The second element is that the strict obedience to the signaling is fully supported by the human factor, even in case of ETCS level 2. Of course, the current equipment can detect some faults. If you do not brake within 3-4 seconds when your ETCS speedometer requires it, the computer will engage the emergency brake until the train stops. But it’s not enough. And often it’s too late. « Train drivers have little room for decision-making, » says Jürgen Siegmann, professor of rail transport and railway operations at the Technical University of Berlin.

The third element is obviously the factor ‘cost of railway workers’, which is combined with operational factors. The railroad is known for its large labours needs, while for other transport, one man is sometimes enough. We are thinking of maneuvers in industrial installations or in marshalling yards. In some rail public services, wages eat more than half of the turnover. Financial aspects should not be underestimated. According to some experts, the cost coverage of an autonomous regional train could increase by 60%, which obviously interests the transport authorities and the State. This is unfortunately not verifiable at the moment.

The conclusion is that the railways are looking for a reduction in operational costs, through new signaling with less equipment, and reduction of the human factor, where is possible. In Germany, an expert report at the end of September 2018 showed that to absorb the growth and the modal-shift expected of in the future by a greater number of trains on the network, it would be necessary to multiply the tracks on the congested railway lines. This solution would cost almost twice as much as digitization, taken in all its components, not only by the autonomous train. One point on which they will not procrastinate: the security. Let’s take a look at what’s going on with the autonomous train.

Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto operates about 200 locomotives on over 1,700km of track in the Pilbara, in Australia, allowing it to transport ore from 16 mines to four port terminals. On July 10, a train, consisting of three locomotives and described by Rio Tinto as ‘the world’s largest robot’, travelled over 280km from the company’s mining operations in Tom Price to the port of Cape Lambert. The train was remotely monitored by Rio Tinto’s Operations Centre in Perth more than 1,500km away. The locomotives are equipped with AutoHaul software and are fitted with on-board cameras for monitoring from the centre. Of course, this train only ran alone on a single-track line in a desert region, where the probability of an obstacle was certainly low, despite the presence of some crossing-levels.

We are working closely with drivers during this transition period as we prepare our employees for new ways of working as a result of automation’ explains Ivan Vella, Rio Tinto Iron Ore managing director for Rail, Port and Core Services. According another director of Rio Tinto ‘AutoHaul has shown in trials that the autonomous trains delivered the product to the port nearly 20% faster than a manned train.’ The proof that all of this is taken seriously is that the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR), in Australia, has fully approved the technology which underpins the entire system, AutoHaul.

ProRail and Rotterdam Rail Feeding (RRF)

The Dutch railway infrastructure manager ProRail announced on TEN-T days in Rotterdam that it wanted to create the conditions to test the automated operation of freight trains on the Betuwe Line connection, a railway line reserved for freight traffic between Rotterdam and Germany, which operates only with ETCS level 2 (cab signaling).

As part of the ERTMS Corridor A, this line is fully equipped with ETCS 2 (SRS 2.3.0), so without lineside signals, like high speed lines. This is a minimal requirement for an automated operation, even though originally, ETCS was specified for manual mode operation. Alstom signed an agreement with ProRail and Rotterdam Rail Feeding (RRF) to carry out the tests. It is planned that an RRF locomotive will run approximately 100 km from the port of Rotterdam to the CUP Valburg freight terminal using ATO on the sections of the route which Alstom has previously equipped with ETCS Levels 1 and 2. Here, the train is controlled by computer, but the driver is always on board, operates the doors, starts the train and can take control if necessary.

Rio Tinto and Pro Rail tests are only for freight trains only. What about passenger trains? As in the case of cars, there is also an international classification of levels of automation in public transport, or “automation levels” (GoA). Four levels of automation are available, and the tests are initially oriented on levels 2 and 3. For level 2, the system supports the journey from start to finish, but the driver is still responsible for the operation of the doors and the starting of the vehicle. For level 3, the train operates without a driver, but an onboard attendant always checks the doors and can move the train via an emergency system if necessary.

Deutsche Bahn

The European rail champion is currently transforming a section of several kilometers near Chemnitz into an trial site for autonomous train. DB Regio, a subsidiary of the DB, has upgraded a self-propelled train, with cameras and sensors in its Chemnitz workshop. The system must detect obstacles and stop the train if problems. By autumn 2018, this train should be operated in part automatically. Only the approval of the German federal railway authority (EBA) is still lacking.

Autonomous driving is complex. The rail system, where fast and slow passenger trains and freight trains run and are mixed, is more difficult than a metro – but it is possible. The first pilot projects are underway, and we have set up a test area on the Erzgebirgsbahn. Fully automatic rail driving is the next big step in development and a matter of time.’ explained former CEO Rüdiger Grube in 2016. Since then, the DB has signed an agreement with SNCF concerning the autonomous train.

In 2015, however, after a bad year with strikes, the DB stressed that ‘In our safety philosophy, train drivers remain a strong pillar.’ Customer surveys have shown that passengers do not want to abandon train drivers. Three years later, is it still the case?

SBB (public railways in Switzerland)

What might surprise you is that we are also a big software company,’ said Erik Nygren, a business analysis and AI researcher at the company. Switzerland also studies on the autonomous train. On the night of 5 December 2017, SBB tested for the first time an autonomous train on the Bern-Olten line. This train has braked and accelerated independently from any action of the driver. The driver only controls the processes and function of the systems, just like pilots in an airplane cockpit. The constructor Stadler Rail also sees it as a huge advantage: “This trip was a first and it is proof that you must continue to compete in the highly competitive rail market,” explains Peter Spuhler, CEO of Stadler. In other words, it is a question of guarding against competition (Chinese?) and, for Switzerland, the autonomous train is part of a broader strategy for exporting technologies of the country. The Confederation is in the top 5 countries relying on artificial intelligence, and this also explains this policy.

Contrary to Germany’s caution, SBB’s plans for the future “SmartRail 4.0” strategy show that the partial automation of trains would be planned for “the coming years” and that operation of fully automated trains would start in the period after 2025. Optimistic? We’ll see.


Austria is also at the forefront of progress. With its Swiss and German neighbors, we can see that it’s the whole German-Alpine region is embarking to the digital rail technology. The line is situated between Oberwart in the Austrian state of Burgenland and Friedberg in Stiermarken. It passes eight stations, twelve railway crossings and a 524-meter long tunnel. This variety of environmental factors make it possible to test different situations that can occur during a train journey, in the context of a project of autonomous train made by ÖBB, the Federal railways.

A old Emu from the Traunseebahn operated by Stern & Hafferl Verkehrsgesellschaft was rebuilt and equipped with various sensors (laser scanner, mono and stereo video, radar, infrared and ultrasound as well as location sensor technology in conjunction with algorithms) for obstacle detection and an automatic control system. With the help of the developed software system, the railcar can drive completely autonomously, can control breakpoints and brake before many obstacles. The system is based on a digital train protection and control solution that Siemens Austria has developed together with the FH Upper Austria (University of Wels, Research Group Rail Automation).

The current project called “autoBAHN2020” aims at a demonstrator system and associated simulation environment that can serve as a basis for future concrete product and approved developments for the public transport in order to facilitate the autonomous trains on secondary railway lines. Siemens Austria is involved in the project in questions of system approval as well as driving and braking control..

In France ?

Shortly before Innotrans 2018, France’s national railway operator SNCF has announced plans to introduce prototypes of driverless mainline trains for passengers and freight by 2023. SNCF will be partnering up with rolling stock specialists Alstom and Bombardier who will be heading up consortia for freight and passenger traffic, respectively. According the CEO Guillaume Pepy : ‘With autonomous trains, all the trains will run in a harmonised way and at the same speed. The train system will become more fluid.’ It is difficult to know where this statement comes from, which remains to this day unverified and unverifiable. One can understand indirectly that the second European railway carrier does not want to be left behind by its neighbors. The French rail operator said it was talking to German operator Deutsche Bahn about promoting a European standard for driverless trains.

Thameslink (London)

Let’s end with a real test in real conditions. Govia Thameslink Railway, which owns the Thameslink franchise, a north-south line running through London, started a first test in March 2018. After almost 18 months of testing, the first commuter train in automatic operation was Monday’s 9.46am Thameslink service from Peterborough to Horsham. Shortly after 11.08am, the driver, Howard Weir, pressed the yellow button in the cab that allowed the train’s computer to do the driving between St Pancras and Blackfriars.

Gerry McFadden, directeur technique de la société mère de Thameslink, rassure tout le monde : ‘Nous aurons toujours besoin d’un chauffeur dans la cabine, mais cette technologie nous permet de faire circuler plus de trains, plus souvent que nous ne pourrions le faire manuellement. Pour les voyageurs, les trajets n’auront jamais été aussi fluide.’ Avec 24 trains par heure en heure de pointe, Thameslink n’a aucun intérêt à se tromper. Nous sommes à Londres, sur l’un des réseaux ferroviaires les plus encombrés du monde. Et dernièrement, de nombreux couacs sont venus perturber le quotidien des navetteurs de la capitale britannique, pour d’autres raisons. L’heure n’est donc plus aux tergiversations : il faut que cela fonctionne !

Gerry McFadden, Technical Director of Thameslink parent company, reassures everyone: « We’ll always need a driver in the cab, but this technology allows us to run more trains, more frequently than we could by driving the trains manually. For passengers, the trip will be as smooth as ever. » With 24 trains per hour in peak, Thameslink has no interest in making a mistake. We are in London, on one of the most congested rail networks in the world. And lately, many problems have come to disrupt the daily lives of commuters in the British capital, for other reasons. The time for procrastination is now over : it must work!


We are only at the beginning. Autonomous trains concern two separate branches of the railways: freight on the one hand, and passengers on the other. We are pretty sure that under certain conditions, like in Australia, the freight train will benefit first from the autonomous locomotive. With these recent developments, one might wonder if it is easier to bring autonomous passenger trains to the mainstream before self-driving cars could make it to the traffic. But that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Achieving full automation would require advanced image processing technology relaying information at high speeds to the control units at all times. These systems must also be constantly maintained by highly trained personnel, adding more costs to the implementation.

Those who say that would perhaps do well to reread Schumpeter ….



How the Ruhr region manages his railways ?

(Version en français de cet article)

The Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr (VRR) is a regional public transport authority that ensures the integration of public transport (prices, offers, quality …), and which finance and provides grants to operators, whether train, tram or bus . The zone managed extends to the Ruhr, the Niederrhein, to part of the Bergisch Land and the state capital of North Rhine-Westphalia, Düsseldorf, totaling 8.2 million people. Founded in 1986 as an association of public transport companies, VRR has gradually gained duties and responsibilities and is now seen as a mobility service that acts upstream, in cooperation with service providers to form an integrated transport system. This authority has nearly 49 rail lines and 935 bus lines, for a traffic of about 4 million passengers every day.

As everyone knows, in Germany, regional transport, including railways services, depends on the Lander, which award contracts and grants to operaters of their choice, and not only to the national DBAG. As a buyer of rail services for regional and local passengers, VRR’s mission is to regularly control trains services and the compliance to the contractually agreeded quality standards. As such, the VRR produces an annual barometer of all rail providers. The edition 2015 has now been published. It shows the state of rail passenger transport in the region of the Ruhr. For the tenth time, it provides an overview of the quality of service in the interests of transparency which would make the envy in other Member States of Europe. The annual report provides information on the punctuality and condition of vehicles, shows how travelers appreciate the achievements in the regional rail transport and highlights the quality of sales services. What can we see?

It is noted here that private providers seem to hold the top of the podium, with respect to the DB, but with some variations. As in previous years, the current report shows that the procedure for awarding regional railway lines has a positive effect on the quality of the offer: the assigned lines in competitive tenders are still highly rated by users than those under “bulk” contract of the DB. The barometer below delivers the details:

Services and seating

VRR has questioned travelers on various standards of quality and the level of satisfaction by railway line. Evaluation is curiously denoted as “one” ( “very good”) to “six” ( “unsatisfactory”). So you must have a low score to get the highest notes. Overall, users are more satisfied with the performance of public services over the previous year. Only six of 49 lines operated by the VRR get a worse rating than 2014. On this quotation, DB seems to record the lowest scores, as shown in the table below, with an average of 2.27. By contrast, Abellio (subsidiary of the Dutch NS) is second with 1.87 and the gold is obtained by Regiobahn, a private subsidiary owned by several cities of the Ruhr, with a score of 1.67, the best of the table. As noted in the report, an “increase” of satisfaction is thus denoted while the extremes scores of 2014 extended between 1.70 and 2.83. So there is progress, and VRR attributed this to competitive pressure between providers.

VRR has seen however an increase in the number of trains where seating capacity was less than expected. If some of the passengers seem satisfied, the report, however, gives a negative rating for lines RE2, RE11, RB 27, RB 42 and RB 48 to DB Regio AG and the line RE3 from the private company Eurobahn. Passengers assess better the state of the vehicles than before: modern vehicles or a new interior design certainly have a positive effect on the satisfaction. The report also highlights that the overhaul of the Ruhr-Sieg network (RE 16, RB 40 and RB 91) with Flirt trainsets of two or three cars managed by Abellio, begins to show its effects. On other lines, the reason for the sharp improvement in the overall score can be explained by the use of new trains. Since the last timetable change in December 2014, the S6 line earns 3.31 percentage points thanks to the introduction of the class ET 422, replacing old hauled trains. On the S68 line, rising of 1.97 points is certainly due to the modernization of class ET420.

Punctuality and infrastructure

On the side of infrastructure, if it is still necessary to prove, remains important in punctuality, even in Germany. Martin Husmann, the CEO of the VRR, clearly explains the reasons: ‘(the network) was neglected in the past. For years, the DB Group has not adequately maintained his tracks and few investments were undertaken for the technical update. This means that passengers today suffer disproportionately of many construction sites, causing many delays and cancellations.’ The regional express trains have certainly enhanced their punctuality rate compared to 2014, but the average remains around 84%. The S-Bahn, where the distance is shorter, has a better time performance. The end of 2015 was marked mainly by the fire of the Mülheim signal box, causing chaos for several weeks. Thalys has even postponed its service to Dortmund until April 2016. ‘This shows once again the importance of investing in the maintenance and the expansion of the installations to face to this kind of event with more skill’  insists Martin Husmann.

The futur

VRR is booming. By the end of 2016, the lines with high potential like Cologne-Düsseldorf-Bochum and Dortmund – Düsseldorf will spend from two to three trains per hour in Regional services. The frequency on the Duisburg-Essen line will spend from four to five trains per hour, which can leave thoughtful. Abellio will operate with a cross border service between Arnhem, the Netherlands, and Dusseldorf, thus connecting the Dutch city to the Ruhr area.

But Martin Husmann reported another interessant project: the tender for the non-electrified line Emscher-Münsterland, with services RE 14 and RB. Main feature: ‘Our intention from December 2020 is to use fuel cell vehicles. These vehicles are intended to represent a sustainable alternative to conventional diesel trainsets. Using an energy storage device, a smart power management and a favorable energy carrier, these railcars have, compared to conventional diesel units, an increased energy efficiency. In addition, noise emissions will be significantly reduced. ‘ The competitive process for the acquisition and maintenance of these vehicles on the one hand, and the operational services on the other hand,  will be conducted separately. An interesting ecological and technological project to follow …

Allemagne : le rail en holding

Articles similaires :
Allemagne/Lander : les groupes politiques saluent la concurrence dans un rapport de 2018
Nuances sur la privatisation du rail : de quoi parle-t-on vraiment ?

(Article déjà paru le 05/03/2013)

On le sait, avec l’arrivée le 30 janvier 2013 du 4e paquet ferroviaire, la gouvernance ferroviaire prenait encore le dessus de l’actualité ferroviaire, agrémenté de l’avis officiel de la Cour européenne de Justice du 28 février sur la compatibilité de la structure en holding du chemin de fer allemand. Depuis l’automne dernier, les débats ont vu apparaître tout un tas de comparaisons audacieuses et peu rigoureuses. Ainsi la Belgique, qui fut agitée par une réorganisation de sa structure ferroviaire, presse, élus de gauche et syndicats s’épanchaient sur le modèle suisse dit « intégré », faisant fit des réalités politiques et de la structure institutionnelle en vigueur dans la Confédération (à relire ici). En France, « on » avait trouvé un autre trésor : la structure « intégrée » allemande, sous forme de holding, qui recevait les faveurs de tous et de la gauche au pouvoir.


Les forces vives du rail français le répètent à l’envi : l’actuel système SNCF/RFF ne fonctionne pas et on a suffisamment écrit sur le sujet que pour y revenir. L’idée du holding devient alors la solution toute trouvée pour rapatrier RFF au sein « d’un pôle ferroviaire unifié ». Cette traduction française de la holding laisse déjà entrevoir que de sérieuses contorsions sémantiques vont devoir être utilisées pour maquiller la vieille dame.  L’occasion de décortiquer le système en vigueur outre-Rhin afin d’éviter les comparaisons hasardeuses.

Pourquoi une holding ?

L’Allemagne géographique se distincte très nettement de la France par un maillage plus serré des villes et de l’industrie, avec une dispersion plus ou moins équilibrée. Cela favorise davantage le trafic voyageur de proximité et le trafic marchandise. L’histoire toute récente de la première puissante d’Europe nous montre aussi  une nation plutôt riche qui a pu avaler dès juillet 1992 un pays tout entier, à savoir l’ex-Allemagne de l’Est. Le chemin de fer de ce satellite soviétique est dans un état piteux et comptait 4 fois plus de personnel par kilomètre que sa consœur de l’Ouest, pour une qualité proche de zéro.

La réunification des deux entités ferrées posait par ailleurs un problème concernant la dette abyssale du rail allemand, alors que l’Europe s’agitait déjà avec ses premières actions législatives (résumées ici). Un deal est alors trouvé, et il faut être allemand pour proposé cela. Berlin propose l’absorption complète de la dette par l’Etat en échange de deux obligations révolutionnaires : la fin du cheminot statutaire pour les nouveaux engagés et l’ouverture totale du réseau à tous les prétendants fret et régionaux. On n’ose pas imaginer un instant cette réalité ailleurs en Europe latine…

En pratique

Concernant le statut des cheminots d’avant 1994, c’est le BundesEisenbahnVermögen (BEV) qui a pris en charge l’administration des dettes et les surcoûts du personnel relevant du statut de fonctionnaire. Vous avez bien lu : on y parle bien de «  surcoût », prouvant par là que le service public à…un coût supérieur à la normale, et posant le débat de qui doit payer pour renflouer ce surcoût. Le Gouvernement fédéral est chargé de l’extension et de la conservation du réseau ferroviaire de la Fédération et finance ainsi les investissements d’infrastructure à taux zéro, le contribuable se chargeant des intérêts.

De l’administration d’Etat à la holding

La DB AG comportait à l’origine quatre divisions dans la plus pure tradition d’administration d’Etat : DB Reise & Touristik AG (voyageurs grandes lignes), DB Regio AG (régional voyageurs), DB Netz AG (infrastructures) et DB Cargo AG (fret). Une cinquième division « gares de voyageurs » (DB Station & Service AG) fût aussi créée en 1997. En 1999, une étape décisive est franchie sous la houlette du célèbre Hartmut Mehdorn, patron libéral du rail teuton de 1999 à 2009. Il transforma ces unités en sociétés anonymes (filiales) faisant partie d’une holding DB AG et en fusionnant les deux unités de passagers (DB Reise & Touristik AG et DB Regio AG). En réalité, la holding DB intègre deux branches : Deutsche Bahn AG qui détient 100% de l’infrastructure. Et une branche DB Mobility Logistics AG qui est détenue à 75% par la branche Infra et le reste par de l’actionnariat privé (voir infographie). A ce stade, toute comparaison entre cette architecture  avec les « divisions » de structures intégrées (CFF, SNCF, SNCB…) n’a déjà plus lieu d’être : c’est le jour et la nuit…

Flux financiers

Une remarque importante s’impose ici : la tradition fédérale, due à l’histoire des villes-états, a fortement joué sur la structuration des rapports Etat-chemin de fer. Les Länder reçoivent ainsi annuellement 7 milliards d’euros qu’ils utilisent librement pour des services de trains ou…de bus, car là-bas le débat rail/bus est posé différemment. A cela s’ajoute une convention couvrant les quatre années de 2009 à 2013 entre l’Etat fédéral et la DB : 2,5 milliards € sont consacrés annuellement aux opérations de renouvellement de l’infrastructure par l’Etat, s’ajoutant au 1,47 milliards € en maintenance par la seule DBAG. Tout cela est écrit noir sur blanc et il n’est procédé à aucun transfert de fond de l’infra vers le transporteur, comme c’est encore la coutume ailleurs.

L’organisation du transport ferré

Au-delà des Länder, il existe 27 autorités responsables qui définissent elles-mêmes le périmètre et le volume du trafic régional estimés nécessaires au maintient du service public. Elles peuvent choisir le transporteur de leur choix et n’ont aucune obligation vis-à-vis de la DB. C’est ainsi qu’une bonne dizaine d’intervenants, dont Veolia, Arriva ou Abellio proposent leurs services pour un marché en confrontation directe avec la grande maison : 24% des liaisons régionales étaient ainsi gérés par la concurrence en 2011. Dans le fret ferroviaire, la part de marché de la concurrence grimpe à 27% ce dont a très largement profité la SNCF, dont la croissance fret est uniquement due à l’ouverture du marché allemand ! Rüdiger Grube faisait d’ailleurs malicieusement remarquer que ces 27% de la concurrence totalisaient l’ensemble du fret ferroviaire français (1).

La régulation du rail

L’Allemagne dispose de deux institutions de régulation : la Bundesnetzagentur pour ce qui concerne toute l’industrie du rail, y inclus les privés. Et l’Eisenbahn-Bundesamt, la fameuse EBA, chargée de la sécurité ferroviaire et de garantir l’indépendance des fonctions essentielles (sillons, certificats,…). L’EBA avait mis en difficulté la locomotive Prima d’Alstom lors de ses tests sous 15kV il y a quelques années. Cette dernière institution semble encore posé problème selon le prisme par lequel on regarde.

La « muraille de chine » instaurée entre l’infrastructure et la branche DB Mobility Logistics AG fait l’objet de critiques. Pas seulement de la Commission Européenne mais aussi de la part de l’association des entreprises ferroviaires privées qui dénoncent des lourdeurs et des transferts de charges d’infrastructure. Il est en effet reproché à DB Netz de faire baisser volontairement les charges du « frère » DB Mobility, et de les transférer sur les péages de la concurrence, ce qu’un tribunal devra démontrer (2). Un reproche identique avait été formulé en 2010 en Italie (à relire ici). Le modèle n’est donc pas parfait et la notion de « muraille de chine » n’est pas encore bétonnée juridiquement.

En définitive

Faire la promotion du système allemand oblige à dépasser le simple fait de détenir le graphique des circulations, comme on le veut pour la DCF au sein de la SNCF. La DBAG a une obligation vis-à-vis de l’Etat quant à l’ouverture des voies à la concurrence et ne se présente pas comme un mastodonte à maintenir coûte que coûte dans le formole. Le service public est ici vu au service des clients avant d’être un instrument au service de l’emploi statutaire. Il n’y a évidemment pas en Allemagne une idéologie de la puissance de l’Etat, au sens napoléonien du terme. L’enjeu en définitive est de remonter les parts de marché du train, peu importe la gouvernance. En Suisse, pays de l’intégration absolue, le fret international est en liberté totale et CFF Cargo a perdu 50% de son trafic de transit. Et ceci dans un calme social absolu. Il est vrai que sur ce terrain là, Rüdiger Grübe peut voir les choses plus positivement que Guillaume Pépy….

(1) Revue Générale du chemin de Fer – avril 2012 page 57
(2) Le système de tarification « TPS 1998 » en vigueur outre-Rhin permettait à DB Regio de supporter une redevance de 25 % à 40 % plus faible que celle acquittée par ses concurrents.

Quand une Région achète elle-même ses trains régionaux

En Europe, certaines régions ou provinces achètent elles-mêmes leurs trains chez le fournisseur de leur choix. Objectif : un service ferroviaire avant tout centré sur le client. L’exploitant s’adapte aux demandes des régions ou provinces moyennant bien entendu des accords.

Ainsi en est-il du Land du Bade-Wurtemberg, qui vient de signer avec Abellio un accord pour une commande supplémentaire de 4 automotrices destinées au réseau local du Stuttgart Netz / Neckartal. Le nouvel exploitant gérera un réseau de 510 kilomètres de lignes au nom du Land, avec un total de 52 unités Talent 2 à la fine pointe de la technologie, du matériel signé Bombardier.

En 2016, le contrat entre le Land et Abellio convenait que 43 nouveaux trains devaient être introduits dans le réseau du Neckartal (vallée du Neckar), avec des options d’achat complémentaires. En avril 2017, le Land avait activé une première option d’achat en commandant cinq rames Talent 2 chez le constructeur Bombardier. Dans un deuxième accord complémentaire, le Land, en tant qu’autorité contractante, a activé une seconde option avec 4 autres rames. À partir de mi-2019, Abellio Rail Baden-Württemberg GmbH (ABRB) exploitera la vallée du Neckar en livrant un service de 7,3 millions de trains-kilomètres par an au Bade-Wurtemberg. Le contrat court jusqu’en 2032 et comporte les trois lignes suivantes :

• Stuttgart – Muhlacker – Pforzheim / Bruchsal
• Stuttgart – Heilbronn – Mannheim/Osterburken
• Stuttgart – Tubingen

ABRB a besoin d’environ 250 employés pour opérer ses services.

ABRB est une filiale d’Abellio GmbH, fondée en 2003, et qui est l’un des principaux prestataires privés de transport public en Allemagne et en Europe, aux côté de Keolis, Transdev et Arriva. Cette filiale du groupe néerlandais NS exploite des services ferroviaires régionaux et détient des participations dans d’autres transports urbains par bus.

Le contrat original de 2016 comportait une commande pour 215 millions d’euros de 24 rames Talent 2 à 3 caisses et 19 rames à cinq caisses. C’est cette flotte qui vient donc d’être complétée en deux fois. Dans ce cas-ci, le propriétaire est bel et bien le Land au travers de son autorité. Celle-ci loue ensuite le materiel à l’exploitant désigné, en l’occurrence ici Abellio (ARBR). De cette manière, une région ou un Land conserve la totale maîtrise de sa politique ferroviaire. Reste qu’étant politique, une région peut être « incitée » à participer au patriotisme national via un achat industriel, mais elle n’en a pas l’obligation. C’est une opération win-win où la Région est assurée devant ses électeurs de lui fournir de vrais trains modernes. Et c’est un soulagement pour le nouvel exploitant qui ne doit pas passer par le lourd processus d’achat et tests de nouveaux matériels. La responsabilité de la Région devant ses électeurs est entière au niveau confort, d’autant que les flancs des trains comportent bien en grand le logo de l’Autorité…

« Abellio augmentera encore sa flotte de véhicules pour la vallée du Neckar avec 4 rames électriques à cinq caisses. Comme toute notre flotte pour le Bade-Wurtemberg, nous avons commandé ces véhicules auprès de notre fournisseur Bombardier. Cela garantit une qualité constamment élevée. Avec un total de 52 rames – 26 rames à trois caisses et 26 rames à cinq caisses, nous réunissons tous les besoins avant le début des opérations à la mi-2019 pour le réseau de Stuttgart, pour faire face à l’augmentation prévue du nombre de passagers dans les transports publics du Bade-Wurtemberg », explique M. Roman Müller, président du conseil d’administration d’Abellio Rail Baden-Württemberg GmbH.

Le ministre des Transports du Land, Winfried Hermann, poursuit : « La tendance à la hausse du nombre de passagers dans les transports publics se poursuit sans relâche. Par conséquent, il est logique d’utiliser maintenant l’option de commande multiple facultative pour rencontrer l’accroissement [prévue] du nombre de passagers. Avec les quatre trains Talents [supplémentaires], nous pouvons considérablement augmenter notre capacité et permettre une meilleure ponctualité. »

La flotte d’Abellio du Bade-Wurtemberg est entièrement revêtue de noir et de jaune. Les véhicules ont de 163 à 273 sièges selon leur longueur ainsi que de 24 à 39 emplacements pour les vélos. Ils disposent également d’une connexion Wi-Fi gratuite et d’un accès quais/train sans obstacle.

The station, more than a transit place

(version en français)

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For the majority of people, the station is still the place of passage, the one we leave as soon as possible to go to town, to work or to back at home. No need to stay in the middle of this environment which, with its noisy trains, looks like more an industrial place than a place of pleasure. It is true that the steam trains of 70 years ago caused a suffocating smoke and their so characteristic noises. Times have changed. Today the electric trains are much more discreet, especially as they are stationary. But people are in a hurry to leave and they continue to flee the station.

Some managers have examined what could be generate with railway stations, to make them more accessible, more cleaner and that gives to people the desire to stay. Awareness of this situation led of what appears to be obvious in Japan: the station is also real estate and juicy recipes, even for small stations. Now, it has become part of Railway’s company mission to take overlooked or underused parts of their stations and turn them into « money-making enterprises », exactly like an airport.

The flow marketing experts have very well understood. Transit stations are characterized by the absence of a static or permanent population, and the presence of pulsating, heavy flows of people moving through a space. Train stations are ideal locations for small businesses to set up shop, because they are hubs of human interaction where hundreds or even thousands of people day and night come and go. Each person in this flow of foot traffic is a potential customer who might need a specific item or purchase on impulse while waiting for a train. For this type of flow, the station must provide an accessible and affordable shopping experience offering merchandise or services that travelers might not quickly find elsewhere en route while traveling. “We’ve tried to fill pretty much dead space in the station with something that really draws people in,” said David Biggs, director of Property for Network Rail, talking about King-Cross station in London.

Liverpool station in 1984 : not really a convivial place (photo Wikipedia)

To do this, it was important to renovate some large stations or, when it was too hideous, to demolish them and build new station, like in Liège-Guillemins or Vienna-Hauptbahnhof. Architecture is a controversial subject because for many people, the train is not a pleasure because it brings you to work. The railway is seen as a bad constraint in the day, especially for commuters who are experiencing delays and trains crowded and often late. So architecture is equated with a waste of public money while many pressed commuters will only spend less than 10 minutes in the station self. However, a beautiful architecture also has the mission to put a barrier against the insalubrity and the filthy side that we often attribute to the stations and their neighborhood. By this mission, the beautiful architecture of a station secures the neighborhood, its inhabitants and the passengers in transit. This observation is also valid for small stations: the more they are renovated, the more they are respected. The presence of food places, open at evening, also secures a station that is often scary to those who take the train in late evening.

The Liverpool-Street station in 2011 : totally different (photo Wikipedia)

Train stations transformed into a friendly space with services, shops and restaurants are destined to become integrated places in their neighborhood, and not a separate and glaucous element as is still too often the case in many cities. Renovated or rebuilt railway stations have a three-fold mission: to offer better services to transit travelers, to offer better security, better atmosphere and improved services to the whole neighborhood, and to offer additional revenues to the railway companies.




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