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Longer trains welcome

Rails in a border station in southern France had been too short, limiting the length of freight trains travelling from Spain to the UK. The Spanish company Transfesa, in which DB Cargo holds a stake, has now found a solution – with smart shunting manoeuvre the route can now handle trains which are 90 metres longer.

Until recently, freight trains travelling from Valencia to the UK could be no longer than 660 metres, including the freight wagons and locomotive. The reason for this long-standing restriction was the station in the French city of Cerbère, where the rails were of insufficient length. Transfesa is now changing out the axles of freight wagons in Cerbère, converting them from broad gauge to European standard gauge. This involves lifting the wagons in a hall and swapping out the axles with their wheels, a process which runs so smoothly it takes only a few minutes.

The Transfesa project, which was led by project manager Pablo García, was called "Optimising multimodel traffic to the UK". Under the direction of Euro Cargo Rail (ECR), the french DB Cargo national subsidiary, García advised on how to allow longer trains to travel on the French portion of the route. "We do a shunting manoeuvre where the locomotive first picks up the additional freight wagons and then couples with the long train, which is waiting on an adjacent track", says García, describing the solution. Transfesa, a joint venture between DB Cargo and Renfe, Spain's national railway, thus found a solution to resolve this bottleneck on the border. With Transfesa's solution in place, trains with a total length of 750 metres are now able to travel this route, including the portion in France.

The solution increases the capacity of each train by 14% thanks to the ability to add additional carrier wagons. Each carrier wagon carries one to two containers, so the new arrangement also reduces energy consumption.