Rail Glitch Hits German Chemical Shipments

  • (c) zenniei/Stockphoto(c) zenniei/Stockphoto

Delivery of chemical products by rail from north to south through Germany is currently being hampered by the closure of the Rhine Valley Railway line, and this is creating supply shortages and boosting transport costs, the chemical industry association VCI reports.

Already, there is a back-up in deliveries of specialty equipment such as tank containers and cooling trucks, said Andrea Heid, who has responsibility for transportation matters at the association.

German chemical producers Evonik, Covestro and Lanxess as well as US producers with production facilities in Germany, such as Dow Chemical, DuPont and LyondellBasell, all have transportation links north of the track closure between the towns of Rastatt, and Baden-Baden.

Without quantifying the volume of goods affected, VCI said about half of all base material shipments to chemical plants and deliveries of finished product to customers can be rerouted along other rail lines, while the rest is currently having to be transported by truck or barge instead.

The association has called on the German railway operator, Deutsche Bahn, to better prepare for line closures in future. VCI said it fears that, due to the long delay, companies may abandon rail transport and move goods back onto Germany’s busy traffic or river arteries.

As the rail line is expected to remain closed until Oct. 7, Deutsche Bahn said it is working with counterparts in Switzerland, France and Austria to put additional trains on alternative routes via France and Austria. A shuttle service for commercial goods between Kornwestheim, north of Stuttgart, and Zurich, Switzerland is also being considered.

Passenger trains likewise are being affected by delays that in some cases have doubled travel time between Frankfurt and Zurich.

The problems started on Aug. 12 when the ground sagged above part of a new tunnel that the railway company was drilling in Rastatt, causing flooding and the collapse of the track.

The extent of the needed repairs was determined about a week later.

According to official statistics, an estimated 28 million t of chemical products are transported by rail in Germany, about 8% of the 363.5 million t of freight shipped by rail in the country altogether.

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