Infrastructural bottlenecks in port hinterland traffic are becoming increasingly acute, irrespective of the mode of transport, and are fuelling growing alarm among all the players involved.
Such was the universal feeling at the parliamentary evening in Berlin organized by Port of Hamburg Marketing and attended by Peter Ramsauer, Germany’s Minister of Transport, and around 150 high-ranking representatives of the world of politics, business and trade associations.
For currently compelling reasons, the Kiel Canal (NOK) was seen as an example of the threat that can emerge from failure to take decisions on infrastructure. The world’s most heavily used artificial waterway was completely barred for one week to vessels with a length of more than 125 meters on account of damage to the large lock gates.
Ramsauer: All clear for invitation to tender for lock building
Positive signals for the Kiel Canal came from the federal political level. Present in person, Peter Ramsauer, German Minister of Transport, undertook to “effect emergency repairs at the highest possible speed.” He also had good news of the construction of the urgently needed fifth lock chamber at Brunsbüttel: Now that the parliamentary budgetary committee has given the green light for building costs that have been upped by €65 million, he undertook to invite tenders for the main construction measures without delay.
Scholz: Other federal states profit from a good seaport-hinterland connection
The Kiel Canal is the most vital waterway by a wide margin for the Port of Hamburg’s transhipment traffic, yet it is still a bottleneck. Olaf Scholz, First Mayor of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg used his speech to draw attention to the securing of Hamburg’s future as one of the world’s largest rail ports. He pressed not only for the relief of the Maschen rail hub near Hamburg by track construction work on other routes, but also turned his attention to a good connection nationwide. For instance, he championed expansion of the Eastern route from Uelzen via Stendal to Regensburg. Other federal states of Germany would then profit from Hamburg’s registration of needs in the Federal Traffic Route Plan 2015 that aim to achieve improvement of seaport-hinterland connections. As a result of the Bavarian-Hamburgian cooperation project “Port of Hamburg 62+,” considerable potential for optimization of rail container transport between Bavaria and the Port of Hamburg has been calculated that would facilitate a further switch of traffic from road to rail.
DB canvasses for expansion of tracks South of Hamburg-Harburg
This view is also shared by Ingulf Leuschel of Deutsche Bahn. He argued that “on the track projects for port hinterland traffic, priority should also be given to expansion South of Hamburg-Harburg county.” The catchment area for the distribution of goods extends far beyond Southern Germany. Capacity bottlenecks in the Hanover, Fulda-Frankfurt and Würzburg-Nuremberg regions negatively affect rail hinterland traffic. One solution for southbound goods traffic would be to give priority to upgrading the Eastern corridor. “That would give us an additional 40 train routes per day for goods services from Hamburg to Southern Germany,” said Leuschel.
Roller: Protest campaigns delay and obstruct infrastructural expansion
Claudia Roller, CEO of Port of Hamburg Marketing, named additional projects essential for robust underpinning of the seaport-hinterland infrastructure as the upgrading of the Outer and Lower Elbe, the Middle and Upper Elbe, the Elbe Lateral Canal, the A 20, A 25 and A 39 autobahns, and the new ‘Y’ Hamburg-Bremen-Hanover rail route. It deeply worried her that many of these measures did not extend beyond lip service from politicians, are subject to the whims of politics, or simply languish. She regards as commercially unacceptable “that the periods for planning are assuming absurd dimensions with costs out of control.” These tendencies are being boosted by escalating protest campaigns by minorities. Peter Ramsauer further emphasized this by citing the adjustment of the navigation channel on the Lower and Outer Elbe that had been put on hold by the injunction obtained by environmental associations against the planning permission. “More and more frequently, a vocal minority is succeeding in blocking manoeuvres against the silent majority,” he forcibly objected.
Herkenhoff: In Germany the signs point to growth
Heiner Herkenhoff completed the series of speeches with an optimistic look ahead. He is a delegate of the Executive Board of Commerzbank, with whose support the Parliamentary Evening had been held. His view: “In Germany the signs for 2013 point to an upswing. Provided that the euro crisis does not flare up again, the favourable economic trend should continue in the years to come.”
Henning Finck, Head of the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce’s representative office in Berlin and Port of Hamburg Marketing representative in Berlin, who had presented the evening, summed up: “The contributions have demonstrated that Hamburg and the Federal capital are on the same wavelength.”