Saxony-Anhalt brings expertise to the railways

Saxony-Anhalt establishes itself as a centre of expertise for rail transport. The facilities here in Saxony-Anhalt include the most modern marshalling yard in Europe and the most modern locomotive testing centre in Germany. From 17 until 21 September, with a joint stand for the federal state, Saxony-Anhalt will be celebrating a première at the InnoTrans trade fair in Berlin. With their transport innovations, seven businesses will show that it isn't only because of its location that Saxony-Anhalt has become established as a centre for international rail transport. There are also numerous long standing businesses which have made Saxony-Anhalt into a hub for transport and logistics. These include, for example, the longest-standing railway carriage manufacturing business in Germany, and with Dessau-based Railistics, a global player for specialist consulting services in the area of international rail transport.

“This invention is a triumph of the human spirit! One feels as powerful as a magician from past times!” Such were the words of Danish poet Hans Christian Andersen after his first-ever train journey on 10 November 1840 in Magdeburg. The then up-and-coming industrial town had been home to its own railway station since 1838, which was situated on the river Elbe. And history is being made on the railways of Saxony-Anhalt once again today, with a new era for rail freight transport in Central Germany having started in Saxony-Anhalt: in the summer of 2018, the Deutsche Bahn (DB) officially opened the Halle-Nord train formation depot (ZBA). This means that one of the biggest freight hubs in Germany has opened in the south of Saxony-Anhalt. More than 42 kilometres of track with 133 points and a total of 75,000 sleepers, in addition to almost 10,000 tonnes of steel, have been laid on the 260,000 square metre plot. Saxony-Anhalt is therefore home to the most modern train formation depot in Europe. Up to 2,400 freight wagons can be assembled there into trains up to 650 metres in length per day. Starting from here, the freight flows depart for south-eastern Europe. The freight travels north to Magdeburg or Berlin and south to Leipzig or Erfurt, where it can then advance to other cities in Europe and the world. Halle is set to become the central distribution point for goods that travel to the Far East and as far afield China. With the new Halle-Nord train formation depot, Halle (Saale) is now one of the most important rail transport hubs in Europe.

The new train formation depot forms part of the 800 million Euro modernisation of the Halle rail transport interchange, which is also connected with the "German Unity Transport Project 8": with the opening of the inter-city express (ICE) route between Berlin and Nuremberg in December 2017, the city of Halle has become an important station on the ICE network for rapid sprinter connections. The journey time from Halle to Munich is just 2.45 hours, for example. From December 2018 onwards, the DB intends to operate two further trains between Nuremberg and Berlin in addition to the current ICE sprinters. The latest generation of trains, the ICE 4, will then enter operation here.

Before the ICE 4 trains enter operation, some will be finished according to the state of the art at the MSG Ammendorf railway carriage manufacturing plant in Halle (Saale). With the closure of the plant in 2005, the company – which had been taken over by the Canadian company Bombardier Transportation and has a history lasting more than 120 years –found itself on the brink of bankruptcy. Its successful relaunch took place soon afterwards, however, and today, the Halle-based plant is the longest-standing railway carriage manufacturing business in Germany. The key focus of the business is the maintenance of railway locomotives and the manufacturing of machinery and locomotive components. There is a reason why the new ICE fleet is being completed here: there aren’t many companies in Germany with the capacity or technical expertise to be able to do so. These include the 180-metre long platforms in the production hall, the train hoisting devices and the paint shop. And, of course, the know-how and experience of the 175 employees.

The city of Dessau, Saxony-Anhalt is home to the locomotive maintenance plant with the most modern locomotive testing centre in Europe. It is 1,500 square metres in size, with four platforms and eight work rigs. All four European power systems, and therefore all locomotives which operate on the railway networks of Europe, can be tested here. The Dessau plant is owned by DB Fahrzeuginstandhaltung GmbH, a network of 13 locations for railway locomotive maintenance throughout Germany.

The company “Railistics” is also based in Dessau. It may have a low profile, but it is a global player in the field of specialist advice for the world of international rail transport. The company advises railway companies when new locomotives are required, carries out fleet assessments and their financial controlling for banking and leasing companies, and helps businesses find cost-effective connections for their global transport. Railistics is currently working on large-scale projects in Spain and Saudi-Arabia. The company has been providing advice to the Israeli railway network for eight years. “Railistics” maintains depots in Berlin, Wiesbaden and Tel Aviv, but Dessau is its highest-revenue location.

Saxony-Anhalt doesn’t just perform well in the area of freight transport however, it also does well in public transport. Since 2010, the demand for public transport has increased by more than ten percent. On the one hand, this is a result of the positive economic development in the federal state. On the other hand, however, it is also the result of clever planning: as the first federal state to do so, Saxony-Anhalt has created a network of rail and bus links connecting the local train services with the most important bus connections in the federal state. As Wolfgang Ball, Press Officer of the Nahverkehrsservice Sachsen-Anhalt GmbH (NASA) (Saxony-Anhalt Rail Transport Executive), explains, a twin-track strategy has been consciously pursued: “Where the demand is low, we have adapted our offer to the requirements by providing bus services instead of rail services, for example. Where the demand is strong, we have extended our offer by providing S-Bahn services (suburban trains) and fast regional express trains.” The trains themselves have been completely renewed, the number of customer service advisers has continuously increased, and increasing numbers of local trains are being equipped with free wifi services. The MDV (Central German Transport Association) and Marego (Magdeburg and Region) are also contributing to the success of the local public transport services. With the opening of the new high speed route between Berlin and Munich, the Deutsche Bahn has improved its long distance services, with the ICE (inter-city express) trains now stopping in Halle (Saale) more regularly. These connections are benefiting public transport services throughout the federal state.

Saxony-Anhalt now wants to raise the profile of its know-how for all areas of business surrounding the railways. Whether it is companies operating in the area of infrastructure, supplies, rail operations, maintenance or construction work – they all reflect the growing importance of this region as a transport hub between the east and west – just as it was when Hans-Christian Andersen travelled by train in Central Germany, which was one of his favourite travel destinations. Since 2017, a plaque has commemorated the first railway journey made by the Danish poet – and the long standing railways industry in Saxony-Anhalt.