A universal port’s success rests on several factors. One of these is the quality of its hinterland infrastructure. For distances of above 300 kilometres, on many routes in Europe the systemic advantages of rail as a carrier hit gold when compared to trucking and inland waterway vessels: Rapidity, suitability for transport of large and compact volumes, value for money, reliability and environmental compatibility. A single 800-metre freight train can transport as much as some 50 trucks.
Trade and industry call for transport services causing less environmental impact. The Port of Hamburg has backed rail ever since the dawn of the railway age. Today it offers access to all terminals and industrial firms in the port via the Port Railway, founded in 1866. With total volume transported of 48 million tons, including 2.7 million TEU, the Port Railway takes top place among Europe’s ports. In public areas within the Port of Hamburg, the Port Railway owned by Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) operates the rail network. This extends around 300 kilometres, integrating 850 sets of points. An additional 160 kilometres of track are located in 130 private sidings owned by industrial, cargo handling and logistics companies. The Port of Hamburg is immensely significant for German rail freight traffic. Hamburg is the source or destination for at least twelve percent of national rail freight traffic. Two statistics provide striking evidence of that. Around 200 freight trains reach or leave the port on every working day. Bulk cargoes, containers and other freight are transported by rail. Everyday sights in the port include block trains loaded with up to 6,600 tons of iron ore for steelworks in Salzgitter and Eisenhüttenstadt, and trainloads of potash salt from Werratal region bound for K+S’s Kalikai. Altogether around 5,000 railcars roll along the Port Railway network every day. DB Schenker Rail is the largest provider of rail freight transport services.
Besides Schenker, more than 100 registered rail operating companies meanwhile use the Port Railway network. These offer a tightly meshed network of wagonload services, and shuttle and block train links throughout Europe. Among the most important destinations outside Germany for container train services with the Port of Hamburg are the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland and Switzerland. The top German states by freight volume transported on domestic seaport-hinterland rail services are Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia.