"I think rail has huge potential to be a part of a transport evolution in Europe..."
Ahead of the opening of SmartRail Europe in Amsterdam tomorrow, we have an exclusive interview with one of the event's leading speakers Gottfried Eymer, CEO of DB Cargo Scandinavia , part of the DB Cargo group, Europe’s largest rail freight carrier network. DB Cargo Scandinavia is a joint venture owned by Germany’s DB Cargo (51%) and Sweden’s Green Cargo (49%) and is responsible for the company's many freight trains which run between destinations in Denmark, wider Scandinavia and into the rest of Europe.
In 2003 Gottfried started at Deutsche Bahn in Berlin as Head of Rental and Commercial Department, DB Station & Service AG. After three years he became Head of Strategy of DB Services, DB Energy and DB Passenger Stations before he was responsible for the foundation of the DB Schenker daughter COBRA, the rail freight services between Belgium and Germany, located in Brussels. Since June 2012 Gottfried has been working in his current position as CEO of DB Cargo Scandinavia and sat down with SmartRail World Editor Luke Upton to discuss current projects, a level playing field in transport, ERTMS and more.
Luke Upton (LU): Many thanks for the time today, I know you are very busy at the moment.
Gottfried Eymer (GE): No problem Luke. Yes, it’s a very busy time for us at the moment with lots of growth in the intermodal market leading to some significant developments for us. We transport around 400,000 wagons and more than six million tonnes of freight annually – which is equivalent to 1,100 fully loaded trucks every day. We have over 200 employees and a fleet of 59 locomotives and are always focussed on improving our productivity and rail freight’s competitiveness against other transport modes. And we’ve just rebranded, DB Schenker Scandinavia is now DB Cargo Scandinavia, in line with a reorganisation of the whole DB freight structure.
LU: What are some of main cargoes that deliver in Scandinavia?
GE: It does vary and is always developing as more clients switch to rail. But with the forest industry a cornerstone of the Swedish economy, we transport a lot of paper and related products from there. For heavy paper rolls, railway transportation is the perfect solution.
Steel from Sweden is also a major export with it being in demand across Europe by variety of industries. And most steel products required in Denmark and mainland Europe are delivered by freight rail.
I should also mention our beer train! It’s a network that we’ve developed with Carlsberg Group, the world’s 4th largest brewery. It delivers 500,000 litres of beer and soda ten times a week from their central brewery in Fredericia and taken to our terminal near Copenhagen before being distributed across the greater Copenhagen area. It’s a great service, with 99% of all Carlsberg's trains arrive on time and in addition 5.21 tons of CO₂ are saved every time a train leaves Fredericia.
LU: Sounds like a crucial delivery! Timing and the carbon footprint are two of the advantages you’ve mentioned, what are some of the others?
GE: There’s many. Yes, the carbon footprint is less as we pollute the environment 10 times less than trucks. But more importantly for most companies is cost and service, this is what really drives the decision to switch to rail freight. Goods equivalent to 28 trucks can be transported in only one train and run 10% faster than trucks on long stretches. We provide 13 times safer transports than trucks by following the highest safety standards and regulations and are the preferred transport mode for dangerous goods.
LU: For us in the industry, we know the strength of freight rail. But many don’t. Do you think there’s a level playing field between modes of transport?
GE: No there isn’t. Freight is a highly price sensitive market and there are competitive disadvantages for rail. Let me give you just a couple - road fees and tolls for trucks have been abandoned in Denmark and Sweden whereas rail has to pay for the use of tracks, Denmark has due to the bridges like the Storebælt-Bridge and Øresund-Bridge some of the highest rail infrastructure costs in Europe and terminal costs are 30% higher than in other European countries. Then there’s uncertainty and changing development with environmental subsidies and ERTMS investments which hinder development further.
SmartMetro 2016 incorporating the 7th Annual CBTC World Congress returns to Copenhagen, Denmark on 1st-3rd November. Find out more here
LU: So what can be done better?
GE: There needs to be a master freight plan to develop its use further. And a raising of awareness in politics and for the public via the media of the advantages of rail freight. A coherent strategy for prioritization of investment in the national rail infrastructure and the international connections including terminals should be formulated. Whilst the negative socio-economic costs of increased road transport, such as pollution, accidents etc. should also be stressed.
LU: You mentioned ERTMS, and know that’s a topic that you focussed on at SmartRail Europe Congress in Amsterdam. Where does this fit into everything?
GE: Interesting question! Denmark is one of the first movers on the development of ERTMS by switching the current safety system in the new ERTMS and has a result suffered from being a pioneer. The timeline proved difficult and technical development has had to happen as the system is being installed. Plus it’s proved more costly than planned and is designed to be deployed with very limited funding, which covers for the time being only 20 % of the cost for the private operators like DB Cargo Scandinavia
LU: Thanks, and just to conclude as we always ask our interviewees, what excites you most about our industry?
GE: I think rail has huge potential to be a part of a transport evolution in Europe and strengthen its position competing with road transport. As I’ve detailed, there are several factors needed to increase and improve the position of freight rail but we know what we are capable of, it’s just a matter of pushing it forward!
LU: Thanks very much for the time today.
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