DB Logo

Storm temporarily closes important line on Mediterranean coast

Heavy rainfall created challenges for DB Cargo in France, but a rapid response from the parties involved kept disruptions to a minimum.

The rail connection between the French cities of Lyon and Modane was closed for three weeks about six months ago, but this time it was the Sête-Narbonne line that was hit. Running along the Mediterranean coast, the tracks were flooded at several locations at the end of October, and some sections were even washed away.

The scale of the closure is comparable to the disruption at the German town of Rastatt in 2018, but the impact in western France was possibly even more severe as there were no alternative routes for rerouting services in that region. Any trains travelling from Germany to Spain in this period had to switch from the Mediterranean corridor to the Atlantic, which added 450 km of travel in each direction.

With little notice, DB Cargo was able to arrange for 14 trains to travel by the Atlantic route per week, and the company redeployed 18 train drivers to do so. These shifts allowed DB Cargo to keep about half of the transport volume on the rails which was originally scheduled for rail transport. The remaining volume was passed on to road hauliers for this period because some transports were unable to use the rail diversion due to the loading gauge. As track repairs were nearing completion, we were once more in a position to handle 85-90% of normal transport services.

By the time the line was back in service, its closure had caused some 45,000 km of diversions and approximately 400 additional shifts worked by DB Cargo employees. The new model for rerouting traffic worked very well, and DB Cargo ascribes its success to new processes and structures which it developed as part of its Corridor Excellence initiative:

  • Pre-determined communication channels
  • Ability to respond more quickly to events
  • End-to-end management process involving all parties
  • Clearly defined escalation levels