In 2018, more than 60,000 trains with over 1.6 million cars and 46.8 million tonnes of cargo travelled on the tracks of the port railway. Bulk goods, containers, chemicals and break bulk are transported by rail. Nearly 2.5 million standard containers arrived at or departed from the terminals – among the largest container rail terminals in Europe – on the many container trains. In addition to these, enormous block trains brought nearly 7,000 tonnes of iron ore from HHLA subsidiary Hansaport to the steelworks in Salzgitter and Eisenhüttenstadt. Trains from the Werratal region also carry potash to K+S AG’s “Kalikai” site.
In order to coordinate such volumes on the port railway network, a modern control tower, similar to the one at an airport, presides over the Alte Süderelbe seaport railway station. A modern control tower, similar to the one at an airport, presides over the Alte Süderelbe seaport railway station. From the central control centre 20 metres up, controllers and dispatchers have an excellent view over the expansive area with platforms of more than 700 metres in length. They see how the rail cars roll one-by-one over automated braking systems and are spread across different tracks. They come to an inch-perfect stop right where they have to, where they are then combined to form new groups or trains.
Shuttle or block trains do not need to be shunted. When they arrive on time, they travel into one of the track sections located in front of the Altenwerder container rail terminal and then on to the terminal track. All according to plan; no additional work for the colleagues in the control centre. They work for the Hamburg port railway, which is a division of the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) and one of Germany’s largest railway infrastructure companies. It is responsible for availability and safety across the entire infrastructure, acting as a link between terminals or loading points and the European railway network. More than 110 different rail operators use the infrastructure, for instance the HHLA-Company Metrans, the biggest container mover in the port.