Mills shun railways despite German transport bottlenecks

Germany and its neighbouring countries are suffering from a month-long draught with only sparse rain, which has rendered river water levels in some areas nearly too low for shipping. To make things worse, railways are not very popular as an alternative for transportation of large loads, some observers say.

Swiss Steel, for example, receives scrap for its electric arc furnaces by truck, “and every now and then by train”, it says. For outgoing transports of finished products from its German and Swiss mills – finished special bar bound mostly for export – it does use ships, on the Rhine River to reach Antwerp and Rotterdam. Lately, however, it has increasingly switched these transports to truck by road.

“We are using 100% trucks now, because the railways are a: not reliable, and b: lacking the capacity,” a spokesman tells Kallanish. He adds that “for commercial/industrial transports, railways keep lagging far behind the service they have for private passengers, sadly”. He says this hurdle applies to many industries, meaning the competition for trucks has become more severe.

It may not apply to mills with larger and heavier loads that have traditionally depended on railways for decades. This would be the case for coil mills with big loads of large diameters, often bound for inland destinations. “Our coils are mainly sent by train, and, to a lesser degree, by truck, but not much by ship,” thyssenkrupp says.

Christian Koehl Germany