New freight train connection to Norway: DB Cargo Scandinavia pilot project

Freight train on trial run to Hirtshals running with Norwegian, Danish and EU flags.

New freight train connection to Norway: DB Cargo Scandinavia pilot project

Premiere at the Port of Hirtshals: Trial run demonstrates feasibility of new intermodal link to Norway.

On 2 May 2024, DB Cargo Scandinavia and its Danish partners ran their first freight train to the port of Hirtshals. The new rail link between Norway and continental Europe opens up new eco-friendly routes for intermodal service, including hydrogen and CO2 transports. The service will go into full swing in early 2025.

Trial run successful, impressive demonstration of potential

There has been an intermodal terminal at the port of Hirtshals since 2015, an ideal location for ferry connections to Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. In spite of its potential, Hirtshals has not been served by rail freight transport until now, but that is set to change in 2025. The first step has now been taken with an initial trial run, which saw an intermodal train for potential customers travel from DB's intermodal terminal in Taulov to Hirtshals. The corridor's potential was confirmed in practice and customer processes were tested. The pilot project was carried out by DB Cargo Scandinavia, the Norwegian freight operator CargoNet, the railway company Nordjyske Jernbaner, the Green Jutland Corridor network, and the ports of Hirtshals, Kristiansand and Larvik. The premiere was attended by over 100 invited guests, including potential customers, policymakers from Denmark and Norway, and other industry organisations.

People standing in a group at an event at the Hirtshals intermodal terminal

Satisfied faces at the Hirtshals intermodal terminal after the trial run

What are the advantages of the Hirtshals link?
  • Fast connection to southern Norway: The expected transport time from Duisburg to Hirtshals is around 20 hours, which compares favourably with the previously used overland corridor via Sweden and with transport by lorry.
  • Less road congestion: More than 500 lorries travel to Hirtshals every day on the Jutland north-south link in Denmark, making traffic jams inevitable. Some 20% of lorries are craneable today and can be shifted directly to rail, which would significantly ease congestion on the corridor.
  • Competitive pricing: Compared to road transport, the route from Hirtshals to terminals like Hanover-Lehrte or Duisburg will be a competitive product for consignors and freight forwarders.
  • Climate protection with every trailer: On the Duisburg–Hirtshals route (800 km), transporting a trailer on a freight train cuts CO2 emissions by 1,600 kg compared with transport by lorry. Rail freight is crucial to making industry's supply chains sustainable and reducing consumers' carbon footprints. On this route, around 40,000 lorries per year could be shifted to rail now, which could reduce CO2 emissions by up to 64,000 tonnes.

Direct intermodal rail link to Norway

This corridor is of particular interest for intermodal transport from Europe to Norway. The Hirtshals intermodal terminal's ideal location very close to the ferry terminal is another plus point; trailers can be unloaded from the train and towed straight to the ferry. The crossing to Kristiansand, Larvik or Stavanger via the Skagerrak takes around four hours. In Norway there are connections to various destinations such as Oslo, Narvik and Trondheim. 

DB Cargo Scandinavia is responsible for the route as far as Hirtshals, and CargoNet takes over the onward transport in Kristiansand. CargoNet offers direct links to 12 Norwegian terminals.

Three questions for Alexander Wehnert

Alexander Wehnert, Business Development Manager at DB Cargo Scandinavia, is the project manager for the Hirtshals route. Wehnert has a strong network in the logistics industry, speaks fluent Danish, and lately more and more Norwegian. His main task is to reconcile companies' logistics needs with freight train operations and to coordinate them in ways that benefit both sides.

Mr Wehnert, what are your expectations for the Hirtshals route and the improved rail freight transport link to Norway?

AW_ We're making possible something that has only been talked about in terms of potential for a long time. For both the manufacturing sector and increasingly eco-conscious consumers, we now offer an option that directly connects Norway with continental Europe by freight train. Now we need to build viable partnerships with interested customers. 

What was special about the trial run between Taulov and Hirtshals?

AW_ The trial run showed that we can make this connection work. After all, long, theoretical analyses and presentations are no substitute for actually running a train. We proved on the ground that the train can arrive on time and showed how the trailers are loaded and how the logistics works up to the port and ferry quay. It was also exciting for the attending politicians and logistics company representatives, who want to get better acquainted with rail freight transport. And it's important for me to emphasise that this project could only be implemented thanks to close cooperation with the Port of Hirtshals, the North Jutland Railway, and many other local partners. Good logistics is good teamwork!

When will the link really get going?

AW_ The plan is to begin operation at the timetable change in December 2024. We're in discussions with various partners who want to operate their Norway logistics via Hirtshals and shift it to rail. But one thing is certain: Deutsche Bahn is ready.

A trailer being transferred from a lorry to a freight train at the Hirtshals marshalling yard

The intermodal terminal in front, the harbour in the background: a perfect symbiosis

Hirtshals making an ambitious contribution to decarbonisation

Hirtshals offers more than its role as Denmark's northernmost freight yard, especially when it comes to energy decarbonisation: "Greenport Scandinavia", a hub for CO2 emissions from European industry, is being developed at the Port of Hirtshals. From 2025 it will be possible to transport liquefied CO2 to Hirtshals, where it will be temporarily stored and then transported to a storage facility in the North Sea. Intensive logistics solutions are being developed in cooperation with DB Cargo BTT for customers who transport CO2 by rail. The corridor can also be used in the other direction for climate protection by transporting green hydrogen from Norway to Europe using tank wagons and tank containers. 

Of course, a requirement for both projects is that the freight line runs as far as Hirtshals, which makes the little Danish port town an important actor in the fight against climate change.

Get in touch with our expert.

Alexander Wehnert

Business Development Manager, DB Cargo Scandinavia