Deutsche Bahn

Quality Circle Operation (QCO)

DB Netz initiative to reduce border barriers

For historical reasons, the railway systems in Europe are still strongly organized on a national basis, and different infrastructures, processes and legal requirements can often clash at the borders. The resulting different requirements for personnel and technology pose major challenges, especially for international rail freight traffic.

The border barriers encountered in international rail freight traffic have so far sometimes caused long dwell times at the border, which ties up valuable resources both for the Railway Undertakings and for the Infrastructure Managers involved. A further complicating factor is that unscheduled dwell times of trains can make operations more difficult and cause secondary delays in the further course of the journey.  So delays can quickly turn into capacity bottlenecks and have a major impact on the entire trainrun.

This is where DB Netz AG’s Quality Circle Operation initiative comes in: The aim of the initiative is to remove process-side border barriers and thus create an efficient, fast, and as seamless as possible border crossing. To this end, DB Netz AG is working closely with neighboring Infrastructure Managers and Railway Undertakings. Regular face-to-face and virtual meetings at the borders create an exchange platform for all those involved in the process to jointly identify obstacles, derive concrete measures, and ultimately implement them. An important indicator for assessing the quality of international rail freight traffic at the respective border is the border dwell time. Within the framework of QCO, intensive work is therefore being done on monitoring and reducing these dwell times.

Of the approximately 27 DB Netz AG border crossings with relevance for rail freight, several border crossings of high importance for international rail freight traffic have been selected at which it is planned that QCO will be fully rolled out and established by the end of 2022. At some of these borders, intensive coordination on border barriers has already been taking place for many years with the infrastructure managers and railway undertakings involved. The effective cooperation at these borders was the role model for the QCO program.


Overview of QCO-borders