Europe View

Intermodal: Locon Class 189 No 189821 heads north with an intermodal train near Hünfeld in Hessen on 29 September 2016. Keith Fender
Train ferry to end in December: DB diesel ICE No 605020 on lease to DSB operating train EC31 (the 07.25 Hamburg Hbf – Copenhagen) running onto the train ferry at Puttgarden (Germany) on 15 September 2012. These DB-owned units have now all been withdrawn, with Danish IC3 trains coming back to the route. Keith Fender


From the December 2019 timetable change direct Eurocity services between Copenhagen and Hamburg will be diverted to run via the Danish mainland route (via Jutland) using the Padborg / Flensburg border crossing instead of the Femer Bælt / Fehmarnbelt ferry, thus ending 147 years of Danish train ferry operations.

Three or four trains a day will operate in each direction taking just over 4.5 hours, similar to existing times. The trains will continue to be DSB IC3 DMUs for the foreseeable future, although replacement by dual-voltage (15kV / 25kV AC) EMUs may occur before the opening of the new Fehmarnbelt tunnel, currently forecast for 2028. Due to engineering work on the Danish side of the crossing this summer, the only remaining operating period for through trains via the train ferry is 1 October to 14 December. After the withdrawal, the only remaining daily passenger train ferries in Europe will be between Villa San Giovanni and Messina on Sicily, in Italy. The Trelleborg (Sweden) to Sassnitz-Mukran (Germany) route has seasonal trains running from Malmö to Berlin. Several freight-only routes survive, mostly in the Baltic.


The change was expected at some point in the next decade as the new 18.2km under-sea Fehmarnbelt (Femer Bælt) submerged tunnel link is designed to replace the Puttgarden (Germany) to Rødby (Denmark) train ferry, reducing journey times by two hours. But the end of train ferry operation has been brought forward due to long-term engineering work in Germany preparing for the new tunnel route. Approvals for the Fehmarnbelt tunnel have been granted in Germany for the work there, to complement those already granted in Denmark. Preliminary construction work is now underway in Denmark to build the factory that will produce the 89 concrete ‘elements’, each weighing a startling 73,000 tonnes, which will form the new tunnel in a trench excavated on the sea bed.


In Germany the existing non-electrified line north of Neustadt (Holstein) will be shut from December for several years for rebuilding and electrification for 200km/h operation. This work will include 55km of new alignments and electrification of the Burg Fehmarn branch. No exact date for completion of the electrification and rebuilding work has been given but local media reports suggest no earlier than 2025. Once the Fehmarnbelt Tunnel has opened it is expected that 80 freight and 20 ICE (or equivalent) trains will use the rebuilt electrified line daily by the early 2030s. A local rail service connecting Germany with Denmark via the tunnel is also under discussion.

The recently awarded ‘Elektronetz Ost’ contract for the regional network in eastern Schleswig-Holstein includes high quality double deck buses offering wheelchair access, luggage space, toilets, power sockets and bicycle racks to operate from Puttgarden to Lübeck via Neustadt (Holstein) in place of both regional and seasonal inter-city trains during the multi-year closure. In Denmark the newly opened Copenhagen to Ringsted high-speed line (p72, last month), plus electrification and rebuilding south of Ringsted, will enable 200-250km/h operation between Copenhagen and the new tunnel.


In early May it was announced Czech company EP Logistics (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Prague-based energy company Energeticky a Prumyslovy Holding, EPH) has agreed to buy German Rail freight company Locon Logistik und Consulting. The price has not been disclosed. Locon, now based in Berlin, was founded in 2002 and expanded from initial contracts operating civil engineering trains for several major German rail infrastructure projects. In 2010 Locon established a Benelux operating subsidiary, but this ceased trading following insolvency in 2017.

In addition to continuing to support major civil engineering projects, Locon now operates intermodal services linking the main German North Sea ports with Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. EPH already owns or is majority owner of several German companies including brown coal mining and power station operators in Sachsen (MIBRAG) and Brandenburg (LEAG formerly Vattenfall) in eastern Germany, both of which operate their own electrified industrial railways. Locon has a fleet of 30 mostly diesel locomotives but owns two Class 189 Siemens-built Eurosprinter multi-system locos and also leases Traxx electric locos, plus over 250 wagons used for intermodal services.


German Railways (DB) has announced that from 9 November it will no longer be able to sell its popular ‘London Spezial/Special’ through fares from London to and from German destinations following a change of booking computer systems by Eurostar. The tickets, introduced in 2008, offer fares starting from €49 from London to almost all German stations using Eurostar services from London to Brussels and DB’s own ICE services via Cologne from Brussels.

DB told Modern Railways the change was ‘due to a system change-over at Eurostar resulting in a missing interface meaning we will not be able to sell through tickets from 9 November’. The company added: ‘We are currently working together with Eurostar to reinstall a customer-friendly solution’. DB was however unable to say when this might happen. DB will continue to offer both Eurostar and DB tickets together on its website – although the fares will be separate (plus in most cases more expensive) and thus passengers will not have the convenience, or the customer protections available, with a through ticket (for example changes to reservations due to delays, overnight accommodation if connections in Brussels are missed etc). It appears the removal of the through tickets with their sometimes short 20-minute connections in Brussels will lead to longer overall journeys as passengers heading to the UK will need to allow 45 minutes for check-in procedures in Brussels. Modern Railways understands that when introduced the DB ‘London Spezial’ ticket was initially expected to be a low-volume product as it was only sold in Germany (where you can currently get them from on-platform ticket machines as well as the remaining staffed ticket offices). But the switch to internet sales – of which DB was an early adopter – made the ticket much more accessible and popular. When originally conceived fares as low as €39 were available and once the fixed per-passenger toll paid by Eurostar to Eurotunnel was taken out it left little in the way of contribution for either DB or Eurostar. However, for DB it helped create a customer base for UK to Germany journeys using ICE services from Brussels and for Eurostar it helped fill seats, some of which might otherwise have been empty on Brussels trains. Eurostar is now filling more of those seats with through passengers between London and Amsterdam/ Rotterdam – with the operator announcing over 250,000 passengers in the first year of operation in April and starting a third daily train on 11 June.


HS1 concessionaire HS1 Ltd published its draft five-year asset management statement in May setting out its plans for investment and renewals in the period 2020-24, plus the longer-term view of renewals and maintenance needs. HS1 has conducted a detailed analysis of future track and infrastructure renewals for the period to 2060 (although the current concession contract expires in 2040) and has concluded these will cost £1.54 billion at current prices.

To fund renewals planned in the line’s CP3 (2020-24), HS1 is proposing substantial increases in track access charges: 43% for international passenger services (in practice only Eurostar) and 25% for domestic passenger services (South Eastern). The disparity is because longer, heavier and faster international trains are responsible for more track wear than the Class 395 fleet. HS1 is also proposing huge increases in freight train access charges, from £7.54 to £13.10 per train kilometre. Eurostar and freight operators have objected to the proposed increases. Eurostar has highlighted that the proposed charges are more than double the cost per train kilometre between Lille and Paris and four times those between Lille and Brussels. It appears the increase in charges as currently proposed would make it highly unlikely that new services such as London to Bordeaux would be viable – notwithstanding the fact that HS1 itself is promoting such services! Previously (as long ago as 2010) senior managers from DB told Modern Railways that high access charges for HS1 were one of the barriers to introducing regular ICE services to London; increasing already high charges by over 40% is unlikely to attract new operators to the line.

The proposed freight charges seem likely to reduce scope for additional freight at a time when post-Brexit demand for inland customs clearance of imported goods is likely to grow. Using HS1 would provide the opportunity for European loading gauge intermodal traffic to access the London area by rail, avoiding potentially-congested ports and motorways in Kent – but this could be scuppered by high access charges on the route.

German train on Austrian line to be electrified: DB Regio Desiro DMU No 642085 seen near Vils in September 2018 with a service from Kempten to Reutte. Keith Fender



The Graz Köflacher Bahn (GKB) regional network south west of Graz is to be electrified. The 91km network in Steiermark (Styria), which is owned by the Austrian government, will be electrified at 15kV AC at a cost of €120 million by 2025, which is the end of GKB’s current operating contract. GKB uses mostly Stadler-built GTW DMUs, plus on weekdays double-deck push-pull peak hour trains operated by unique Jenbacher Werke-built B-B GKB Class DH1500 (numbered as Austrian Class 2015) diesel-hydraulic locos dating from 1975. From 2025 services will be doubled in frequency across the network with the aim of doubling the six million passengers currently carried annually.


The short unelectrified section of the, mainly German, Kempten to Garmisch-Partenkirchen line that runs partly through Austria is also to be electrified at 15kV AC this year, enabling replacement of diesel trains on the Austrian part of the route. The 14·4km section of line between Reutte and Schönbichl in Austria plus (in 2020) the short 1.8km section to the German border station of Pfronten-Steinach will be electrified; this is the only section of non-electrified standard gauge railway in the Austrian state of Tyrol. The section from Reutte to Garmisch-Partenkirchen is already electrified. Once electrified, hourly electric trains are planned between Pfronten-Steinach and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, doubling the service frequency on the Austrian section.


Smart look: leather seats in first refurbished ICR unit. Tony Miles
Back in Poland for repairs: a pair of DB Class 633 ‘Link’ DMUs near Poznań Starołęka on a test run on 25 May 2019. Keith Fender


In April, DB (German Rail) withdrew all the Pesa-built three-car Class 633 ‘Link’ DMUs based in Dortmund for ‘Sauerlandnetze’ services east of Dortmund (routes RE17 Hagen – Kassel and RE57 Dortmund – Brilon Wald / Winterberg), just weeks after introducing them.

Despite having only entered service (over two years late) in early 2019, by March the trains had suffered so many failures in service that DB decided they were not sufficiently reliable for continued use. The problems appear to be software driven and in particular affect the units’ auto couplers. DB has given Pesa until September to resolve all the problems and the affected trains have been moved back to Poland, where they were built, for warranty repairs. DB Regio has replaced the new trains in the interim with a mixture of older DMUs.


DB has ordered 18x4-car double deck ‘Kiss’ EMUs from Stadler in a contract worth €220 million. The trains, which will be assembled in Stadler’s Berlin area factories, will be used to operate the ‘Elektronetz Ost’ network in eastern Schleswig-Holstein in the north of Germany. Each four-car train has 405 seats, 38 of which are first class. The new trains replace air-conditioned double-deck push-pull trains powered mainly by early 1990s-vintage Class 112 electric locos operated by DB Regio. DB Regio was awarded the contract by regional transport authority in late March. It was later revealed that DB had in the end been the only bidder, although four operators had initially expressed interest. DB will operate the following routes from December 2022 to December 2035:

• RE8/80 Lübeck Hbf – Hamburg Hbf

• RB85 Lübeck Hbf – Puttgarden/Burg (Fehmarn)

• RB86 Lübeck – Travemünde

Due to the closure of the Neustadt (Holstein) to Puttgarden / Burg (Fehmarn) line for rebuilding from December (see ‘Europe’ above), the contract requires 1.4 million of the total 4.2 million ‘train’ kilometres to be operated by high-specification buses until the rebuilt line reopens.

The fleet of 18 Kiss EMUs will be equipped with Stadler’s new ‘Gaurdia’ version of the European Rail Traffic Management System, ready for operation on the route connecting to the new Fehmarnbelt Tunnel in the late 2020s. This is the first time Gaurdia has been sold in Germany.


Go-Ahead began services on schedule in Baden-Württemberg on 9 June 2019. The operator has received all the initial 28 Flirt EMUs ordered from Stadler needed to start services. Safety case approval for the new trains was received in late May. In total 45 trains are being supplied (11x3-car, 9x4-car, 15x5-car and 10x6-car EMUs). The new Go-Ahead Flirts have replaced DB Regio loco-hauled push-pull trains on the routes from Stuttgart to Crailsheim / Ulm / Aalen, Würzburg and Karlsruhe. In December the Stuttgart to Nürnberg Regional Express services will switch to Go-Ahead.


27 Alstom-built ‘iLint’ hydrogen fuel cell powered trains have been ordered for services north of Frankfurt am Main. The leasing company subsidiary of area regional transport authority RMV, fahma, is buying 27 Alstom-built two-car, 160-seat, Class 654 iLint hydrogen fuel cell powered multiple units to replace a mixture of DMUs operating routes from December 2022:

• RB11: Frankfurt-Höchst – Bad Soden

• RB12: Frankfurt Hbf – Königstein

• RB15: Frankfurt Hbf – Bad Homburg – Brandoberndorf

• RB16: Friedrichsdorf – Friedberg (Hessen).

The contract is worth around €360 million to Alstom. The German federal government is funding 40% of the cost. A further contract worth €140 million will cover maintenance and the supply of hydrogen for 25 years. Alstom is offering this in co-operation with Infraserv GmbH & Co Höchst, which operates the Industriepark Höchst chemical industrial estate in the western suburbs of Frankfurt, where a hydrogen train refuelling depot will be built.

More French trains in Spain? SNCF TGV No 806 at Barcelona Sants on 21 November 2016 after arriving from Paris. This is one of 10 TGVs currently equipped with the Spanish AFSA safety system. Keith Fender



The first of Iarnród Éireann/Irish Rail’s InterCity Railcar (ICR) DMUs returned to service on 24 April following an extensive interior refurbishment. The 234 vehicles manufactured by Hyundai Rotem were delivered between 2007 and 2011 and are currently formed into 28x3-car, 25x4-car and 10x5-car sets; they work on both inter-city and commuter services across the Irish network.

The refurbishment project involves the replacement of 15,500 seat covers along with new double and single arm rests, replacement of 8,379m of catering and carriage area lower panel material with a durable hard plastic covering, and the fitment of 7,750 USB power sockets.The work is being carried out in-house at Connolly depot, with the eight-strong refurbishment team expecting to complete each unit in two weeks. Government approval is expected shortly for an order of 41 additional ICR vehicles, which will be used to lengthen the existing fleet to create 22x6-car, 20x4-car and 21x3-car sets. An option for up to 60 additional vehicles is expected to be included in the deal. Tony Miles


Irish Rail will not be proceeding with a project to repower the Class 201 locomotives as the bids received were all non-compliant. ‘The quotes that came in were almost the same cost as a new locomotive’ the company said. The project had asked bidders to propose the use of two or more smaller engines in order to reduce fuel consumption.

Instead IÉ is proposing an in-house solution involving a new control system. Class 201s are used on the ‘Enterprise’ service between Dublin and Belfast and the project will be carried out in conjunction with Northern Ireland Railways. IÉ has also formally abandoned plans to reinstate most of the Class 2700 DMUs, which were stored in 2012 due to poor reliability. It is understood that tenders for the work to reinstate 10x2-car sets, built by Alstom in 1997-98, were in the region of €33 million – too high compared with the cost of new trains. Tony Miles



In April Spanish national infrastructure manager ADIF announced plans to offer packages of high-speed train paths to existing and potential new operators from December 2020. Currently Spanish national rail operator RENFE is the only domestic high-speed train operator; RENFE also operates the international services to France in conjunction with French state operator SNCF. The announcement from ADIF makes packages of paths available on three routes south and east of Madrid (routes north of Madrid are excluded):

• Madrid – Barcelona – French Border plus Valencia – Barcelona;

• Madrid – Toledo/Seville/Malaga;

• Madrid – Valencia/Alicante.

ADIF has given potential operators until late July to bid for the paths they want. The package contracts planned by ADIF will give 10-year access rights and cover 70% of the possible paths on the high-speed network; the remaining 30% will be awarded annually.


SNCF has been planning to enter the Spanish domestic high-speed market for some time (p68, last month). In February it was reported that SNCF has established a Spanish operating entity named Rielsfera, registering the name and applying for safety / operator certificates.

RENFE had proposed the creation of a low-cost high-speed operator to be called ‘Eva’ operating initially on the Madrid to Barcelona route, and reports in 2018 suggested SNCF might even be involved as the project is clearly based on the French ‘Ouigo’ low-cost high-speed offer. However, it appears SNCF intends to enter the market with other Spanish partners and compete with RENFE. According to local media, discussions between SNCF and ILSA (owned by civil engineering firm Acciona and Air Nostrum) have been underway for months. ILSA, as we have reported previously, has applied to operate Montpellier (France) to Madrid via Barcelona services and originally announced an October 2019 start – this has been pushed back to 2020 due to delays in obtaining suitable rolling stock, plus slow progress in obtaining operating rights.

Local media report other groups looking to enter the domestic rail market include the Globalia holding company that owns airline Air Europa plus hotel and travel businesses, which has also reportedly been talking with SNCF. UK-based National Express group could take an interest via its Spanish ALSA bus and rail business. Basque operator Euskotren has previously said it will run regional high-speed services connecting Madrid to northern Spain, while DB subsidiary Arriva is planning open access services from La Coruña in northern Spain serving Porto in neighbouring Portugal.


Unco-operative tactics on the part of RENFE may have delayed ILSA in particular from starting operation in 2019. RENFE moved all the suitable ex-RENFE Class 100 TGV clones out of the state-owned rolling stock leasing company RENFE Alquiler that was established to supply trains to new entrants. In the longer term the delaying tactics may backfire badly. Initially ILSA was seeking a fleet of just three trains and whilst RENFE is the only Spanish operator with them, SNCF has a fleet of 10 TGV Euroduplex 500+ seat trains equipped for use in Spain and used there daily. Some of the trains in this sub-fleet are currently used for services that don’t serve Spain, and in addition there are continuing deliveries of new TGV Euroduplex for domestic French use, thus SNCF has a ready-made fleet of TGVs that could be used by ILSA. ILSA had created its business plan using the pre-existing open access rights that exist across the European Union for international services. Whilst it had to demonstrate it would not prejudice the economics of publicly-funded services, its services can compete with RENFE’s high-speed services run on a commercial basis. ILSA obtained approval for its planned Madrid – Montpellier route from the Spanish national competition authority in September 2018.