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SBB Cargo International CEO Sven Flore on the Rail Freight Industry

German-born SBB Cargo International CEO Sven Flore gave his views on the Ceneri Base Tunnel, the New Rail Link through the Alps, ETCS and more in an interview for the SBB blog. You can read the full interview on the SBB Cargo blog here.

First SBB Cargo freight train in the Gotthard Base Tunnel
First SBB Cargo freight train in the Gotthard Base Tunnel © SBB CFF FFS

On the Opening of the Ceneri Base Tunnel in 2020:

“The Ceneri Base Tunnel is definitely a positive development for Switzerland. It optimises the transit axis. By using longer and heavier trains, we can increase efficiencies and reduce costs and that’s a huge success. But there are many more construction sites to come. There are the feeder railway lines in Italy and Germany for example. These are still in the planning stages.”

On Germany’s Implementation of ETCS:

“Germany must at last introduce the long-neglected train control system ETCS.”

On Improving Cross-Border Rail Links for Freight:

“We need a good overall concept that also takes the connection to Italy into account. Because of the gradient [between Chiasso and Lugano] we will have to continue running trains in double formations, which is associated with increased costs. To keep these in check and to guarantee efficient operations for all rail companies, I believe the infrastructure should offer a one-stop-shop service. The OEBB is a positive example here.”

On the Benefit of the New Rail Link through the Alps for SBB Cargo International Customers:

“I don’t have the confidence to make an assessment on [whether the NRLA will be of benefit to SBB Cargo International customers]. What’s clear is that when one axis was closed in Switzerland, this caused extreme bottlenecks at the alpine crossing. The NRLA increases flexibility and reduces risk and we can offer customers a more reliable programme. That’s a great advantage.”

On International Collaboration:

Our challenges lie “in international collaboration quite generally. We have different cultures that clash and that need to come together. I would like the railways to recognise each other’s strengths and be open to different approaches. That’s a very sensitive and exciting task. Another aspect that’s becoming increasingly important is suitable IT systems, because the complexity in freight is on the up. If we want to be competitive, innovations are essential. Current systems only do what we tell them to. I hope that in the future they can take the initiative themselves.”

On Digitalisation:

“I don’t believe digitalisation means a reduction in jobs. Quite on the contrary: it creates more interesting jobs for which we’re gradually preparing our employees. We’re talking about a time frame of five to ten years. At that point systems should take on the daily operations, while we can concentrate on exceptional cases – that’s more fun.”

On SBB Cargo International’s Goals:

“It is our goal to become the best freight railway in Europe, especially on the North-South Corridor.”

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