Sending more parcels by train

DB Cargo and DHL take their partnership to the next level.

In 2020, people living in Germany received an average of 49 parcels over the course of the year, some 13% more than in 2019. DHL wants to meet this rising demand and, at the same time, its own ambitious climate targets. The company has therefore decided to work with DB Cargo on substantially scaling up its rail transport activities. It’s a development that has been building for a long time. Year after year, DHL’s parcel statistics have repeatedly set new records. Between 2015 and 2020, volumes increased from 1.12 billion to 1.8 billion items, and this upward trend shows no sign of slowing. If anything, it has continued to gather pace due to the pandemic, which forced many shops to shut their doors for weeks at a time. 

Update: Parcels now with a quality seal

DB Cargo and DHL are joining forces to promote climate-friendly logistics - and are now making it visible to recipients. To this end, DB Cargo and DHL are affixing their own green quality seal to one million parcels transported by rail. DB Cargo provides rail transport with a traction current mix of up to 100 per cent ecologically generated green electricity, for example from southern German hydroelectric power plants or wind and solar parks in northern Germany.

100,000 parcels on every train

DHL is the world’s leading parcel delivery service, and it is responding to increasing demand by working with DB Cargo to transport even more consignments by train in future. It’s not just the absolute number of parcels that will increase: DHL also wants trains to move an ever-growing percentage of its deliveries. At present, DHL uses the rail network on the longest leg of the delivery route for 2% of its parcels in Germany. The company aims to increase this figure to 6% in the medium term and around 20% in the long term. 

DB Cargo’s CEO, Sigrid Nikutta, says, “Parcels belong on trains. We are working with Deutsche Post DHL to develop a delivery network that relies on the railway. This will form a strong team for climate protection, because every single DHL train does our planet good by reducing CO2 emissions by 80–100% relative to road transport. One freight train can carry up to 100,000 parcels.”

Tobias Meyer, Member of the Management Board of Deutsche Post DHL Group responsible for Post & Parcel Germany, and Sigrid Nikutta, Chairman of the Management Board of DB Cargo, symbolically give the starting signal for the new connections.

By using rail connections (each train can move an average of 100,000 parcels), DHL already ensures that its monthly CO2 emissions are some 1,000 tonnes lower than they would be if it relied exclusively on road transport. “Our partnership with Deutsche Bahn and the expansion of fast, light freight transport by train are a key component in our sustainability strategy,” says Tobias Meyer, head of Post & Parcel Germany at Deutsche Post DHL Group. “Our CO2 figures per parcel are already far lower than those of our competitors’ services, partly because we have made so much progress in using electric vehicles for our delivery activities. We want to keep extending this lead, so we are now looking at using trains for long-distance deliveries. This represents a further step towards a carbon-neutral postal service in Germany.” 

More connections for greater flexibility

One element of the long-standing cooperation between DB Cargo and DHL is the extensive rail transport network that has grown steadily larger over the past 21 years. When parcels first took to the railway in 2000, there was a single north-south corridor through Germany. Now, the number of connections has grown to 20. No fewer than seven have been added since April 2021, and most of the links run every weekday.

The freight terminal at Grossbeeren, just south of Berlin, is the nerve centre of this network, and trains set out from there for destinations such as Bönen, Mannheim and Frankfurt am Main. Lorries transport packages to the nearest freight terminal from outlying DHL parcel centres. At the terminal, the packages are loaded onto trains that then bring them to the relevant destination region, where the wagons are unloaded and lorries are used once again for the last mile of the journey to the parcel distribution centres. This generally happens at night. 

But DHL isn’t content to leave it at that. The company now wants to build private sidings for some of its new parcel distribution centres. This will reduce lorry transport to terminals, speed up loading and facilitate larger parcel volumes within a given time slot. DHL’s Cologne base is first up: the company plans to open a siding there next year. The end-of-year surge in demand will soon be upon us, and DHL plans to tackle this by deploying at least additional 20 trains at weekends. So roll on Christmas – and bring on the new record figures!

Martin Ritterhaus

Martin Ritterhaus

Head of Account Management Central Carrier Sales Intermodal, DB Cargo