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The environmentally friendly hinterland combo

  • Rail & Road
  • Climate protection
  • Supply chains

The Port of Hamburg is the world's largest rail port. Nearly one in every two hinterland containers reaches or leaves it by rail. No other seaport offers such a favourable environment for rail, a particularly eco-friendly mode of transport.

Container mega-ships with a capacity of 20,000 TEU ensure a great deal of movement at the terminals. In Hamburg, an average of around 9,000 boxes are lifted from ships (unloaded) and loaded. Of these, 6,000 come from or head to the hinterland, while the remaining 3,000 containers or so are transshipments. Transshipments are transfers between the container mega-ships and smaller feeders, which are used to transport the boxes onwards by sea, primarily to the Baltic region. All the import boxes must be moved quickly to the so called hinterland. In the example described, this is done by 1,800 trucks (primarily for shorter routes), 40 block trains (these are freight trains that make scheduled runs as complete units) and usually also two inland waterway ships.

Which route do the boxes take?

All the import boxes must be moved quickly to the so called hinterland. In the example described, this is done by 1,800 trucks (primarily for shorter routes), 40 block trains (these are freight trains that make scheduled runs as complete units) and usually also two inland waterway ships.

Rail beats trucks

They arrive from the hinterland or by sea: thousands of containers are handled in Hamburg every day. Trucks, trains and inland waterway ships all compete for the boxes comprising the inbound and outbound traffic. All three mode of transport have their place and often work together.

Rail freight traffic is particularly attractive from an environmental perspective. Converted to tonne-kilometres (the number of kilometres travelled multiplied by the quantity of goods transported in tonnes), a truck emits 110 times more CO2 than a train. Additionally, rail requires only 1.2 hectares of land for one kilometre of route, while road freight requires 3.6 hectares - three times as much!

Truck transports need 3x as much space as railroads

The world's largest rail port

Around 46 million tonnes of goods were transported on the tracks of the Hamburg port railway in 2023! This means that rail has a larger share of hinterland traffic in Hamburg than trucks. The fact that containers transported by rail cover significantly longer distances than those transported by road is a positive thing.

Which means of transport do containers use between the port and the hinterland?

Hamburg 2022, deviation due to rounding. Source: Hafen Hamburg Marketing

When it comes to container transport by rail, Germany's largest seaport is the lone leader. Around half of the 5.6 million standard containers in total - that travel by rail every year to and from the largest ports auf the North Range - have either come from or are heading to Hamburg. This makes Hamburg the largest rail ports in the world.

Hamburg is far ahead in terms of rail share, also ahead of the larger ports

210 freight trains each day

The Hamburg port railway, operated by the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA), is the link between the port’s many terminals and the European rail network. It provides around 290 kilometres of track for the efficient handling of around 210 goods trains comprising more than 5,500 wagons every day. More than 160 rail operators use these tracks. No other port offers its customers nearly as many rail connections to the entire German and European region. Hamburg has 1,891 connections (see chart below).

Incidentally, all the terminals - not just the container terminals - in the Port of Hamburg have state-of-the-art, high-performance freight railway stations. With their extensive railway sidings, HHLA Container Terminals Altenwerder (CTA) and Burchardkai (CTB) are considered to be the largest and most modern of their kind in Europe.


No port offers so many rail connections

1,891 connections to/from Hamburg per week

Source: Hafen Hamburg Marketing

Well planned

A modern, IT-supported operating system ensures that all rail traffic is precisely scheduled and that all trains arrive at their destination reliably and without lost time. This infrastructure also includes the Alte Süderelbe port railway station with its distinctive tower. From here, rail operations between destinations throughout Europe and all the major container terminals in the western port area are controlled.

New cars also reach the port by special trains.

More than colourful boxes

Day-to-day railway activities in the port are characterised by container trains, but rail is also an indispensable link to the hinterland for cars, project cargo and many bulk goods. For example, block trains carrying up to 6,000 tonnes of iron ore or coal for the steelworks in Salzgitter and Eisenhüttenstadt depart from the port every day. These are the heaviest trains operating in Germany and carry quantities that could not be transported by road for economical and environmental reasons.

Conversely, trains loaded with potash regularly arrive at the K+S AG Kalikai site from the Werratal region, to be shipped from here to all around the world. And in the Port of Hamburg’s fuel depots, tens of thousands of tank wagons are processed every year. Travelling by rail, they ensure the supply of a wide range of mineral oil products and chemicals.


We guarantee our customers both climate-neutral handling and climate-neutral transport of their goods and commodities from our terminal facilities in the Port of Hamburg to the European hinterland.

The sustainable solution for logistics: „HHLA Pure“