Operators at Green Logistics Expo are waiting for the first concrete answers from the European institutions
Last 2 October, the railway down the Rhine Valley, the most important north/south goods route between the Low Countries, Germany, Switzerland and Italy, was reopened to traffic after being totally interrupted for a full seven weeks following the “Rastatt disaster” when the tracks subsided by more than 50 cm following collapse of an underpass in construction. This was unconditionally the worst crisis ever recorded in European rail transport. More than 200 goods trains per day transit along the Rhine Alps corridor, accounting for 70% of the goods traffic between northern Europe and Italy. Impossible to shift that volume onto the roads – some 20,000 additional trucks and relative drivers would have been needed each week. The case revealed the great limits of the railway system. There is no emergency plan for problems of this level, the alternative lines are not electrified and are not up to capacity in terms of axle weight, track modules and the necessary infrastructure in general. Deviation onto the French lines was held back by the need to find train drivers who spoke French, even going so far as to have them accompanied by interpreters riding with them in the cab to guarantee the trains. Despite this, there was enormous damage to the railway companies, terminal operators, carriers and customers, but above all to the credibility of the railway as a safe reliable transport system. Thirty sector associations (including the Italian Anita, Assologistica, Assofer and FerCargo) have written an open letter with the significant title “Rastatt disaster: let’s learn the lessons!” to the European Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, the 28 transport ministers of the member states and the President of the EU Agency for Railways, Josef Doppelbauer, analysing the episode and asking for a list of urgent measures to ensure such situations can never occur again. Risk management, with planning of alternative itineraries, joint crisis management with the operators involved, international coordination on the corridors and the overcoming of “national” obstacles to genuine interoperability are just some of the most important requests. This will be one of the matters explored in depth in the conferences on the first day of Green Logistics Expo, dedicated specifically to intermodal goods transport and European corridors. And the operators hope that by then the institutional interlocutors will have already provided concrete answers.