German train line closure wreaks havoc

Edited by walterp on . Posted in Business

It all started as a simple tunnel construction project 5 meters (16 feet) under existing railway tracks. But it all went wrong and on August 12 the tracks above the tunnel suddenly sank. Now all traffic has been stopped on one of the most important lines that connects the economies of the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and beyond.

Before the accident, besides passenger trains, around 200 cargo trains used these bottleneck tracks each day. Suddenly all of these trains needed to find alternative routes or must remain parked in the sidings.

At the same time many of the alternative routes that would normally be used are also under construction and cannot handle the additional traffic, upsetting the international logistics system for a large part of Europe.

The Network of European Railways (NEE), an industry association, has estimated that rail logistic companies are losing 12 million euros ($14 million) a week; since only around 10 percent of the train traffic has been able to find alternative routes so far.

The group also notes that we are in the traditional summer lull. When demand increases after the vacation season, the headache will only get worse.

Big problems call for concrete

Not surprisingly customers are looking for any alternative way around the collapsed train tracks. Many are shifting to trucking or shipping their goods from one place to another.

This costs extra time, administration overhead and money, and since no end is in sight, rail companies fear their customers will simply stick to their new transport arrangements and not return to trains later.

The tunnel being built under an important north-south axis which led to the tracks sinking Read more: Cosco to buy rival shipper for $6.3 billion

As a quick emergency solution the Deutsche Bahn is simply filling in 150 meters of the tunnel under the sagging tracks with concrete. This work should be completed by Friday, after which the tracks can be repaired.

Curiously they are leaving the tunnel boring machine, which cost 18 million euro, where it is. It will be cemented in place forever.

Deutsche Bahn is remaining tight-lipped and refused Tuesday to say how long these repairs would take, again angering customers and passengers alike. Some fret it will be September before the tracks are open again.

 

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