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To ensure energy security, energy-related freight will temporarily be given priority on the rails. The Federal Government today adopted a statutory instrument to this effect drafted by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) and the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV). The legislation is intended to ensure that power stations, refineries and power grids can remain operational.

Robert Habeck, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action:

We want to free ourselves from the constraints of Russian energy imports as quickly as possible. Provisionally, this means replacing Russian gas in the electricity supply sector with coal for electricity generation and oil. To ensure supply security, we must also change their supply routes. This is logistically highly complex, and requires prioritizing energy-related freight on the rails.

Dr Volker Wissing, Federal Minister for Digital and Transport:

Securing supplies to power stations in order to guarantee public electricity security is an extremely challenging task. Due to the current low water situation, inland navigation can only handle reduced loads and some of the major railway corridors are already operating at almost full capacity or above capacity, even without additional energy-related freight volumes. As a result, we must prioritize freight transportation, judiciously and with due consideration. That is by no means an easy decision, as it may delay other trains. It is all the more important to establish clear rules now, before the energy needs and therefore demand for energy-related freight rise in autumn and winter.

Also, in the short term, DB Netz AG will adapt the terms of use for the rail network to prioritize oil and coal deliveries at a planning level, i.e. for operational handling of trains. The statutory instrument will also allow oil and coal deliveries to be given preferential treatment for train path allocation.

The legislation was adopted in response to the energy crisis caused by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine in violation of international law. This war has resulted in fundamental changes in the German energy system. For example, Germany is working to emancipate itself from Russian energy sources (coal, gas and oil) and diversify the supplies. Accordingly, the supply chains and corridors have been and are still being adapted.

The statutory instrument is based on the amended Energy Security of Supply Act (section 30) and will apply for a six month period. It legislates that rail transport of energy sources and large transformer equipment are to be given priority on the rail network if the secure and reliable operation of the electricity supply, refinery operations and the supply of oil are endangered. The freight involved is petroleum and petroleum products as well as solid, liquid and gaseous energy sources. Large transformers are key elements of energy supply networks that can only be transported by rail due to their size. If transformers fail or are damaged, they must be replaced or repaired rapidly to ensure the security and reliability of the electricity supply system.

Disruptions in rail services are to be minimized to allow other types of goods to continue to be transported in line with demand and avoid cancellations and delays in passenger services where possible. Prioritization is implemented within a clearly defined energy corridor network, which is based on the demand for freight transport in the energy and oil industry (for example from ports to power stations). If other rail services have to be restricted, a graduated procedure is implemented to prioritize transportation of energy sources and large transformers. Compensation shall be provided based on the Energy Supply of Security Act.

In order to ensure a stable supply of energy and due to existing capacity bottlenecks, including those affecting rolling stock, it may be necessary to use freight wagons that no longer comply with the applicable noise limits. The provisions of the Railway Noise Mitigation Act are therefore not applicable under this special exception.

The Federal Network Agency is the regulatory authority. It assesses whether the prioritization is legitimate. In order to avoid delays in path allocation procedures, and therefore also in transport operations, this assessment is conducted retrospectively.