Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Rail Freight Services Prosper as Shippers Consider the Environment and Problems for Ocean Containers

Operators Say Track Borne Cargo and its Intermodal Options Can Cut Costs and Delays
Shipping News Feature

AUSTRIA – CHINA – UK – Rail freight continues to make strides as the requirement for what are seen as more environmental transport methods continues to occupy the minds of shippers. Additionally the speed of long distance multimodal offerings attract those looking to beat sea freight services in terms of time, if not price.

Rail freight is however hardly new but has seen road haulage networks develop to carry the bulk of land borne freight in the past few decades. Some freight forwarders and logistics companies have however used the tracks to boost their services such as the cooperation between the ÖBB Rail Cargo Group (RCG) and Gebrüder Weiss which has been running successfully for over twelve years.

This block train has since been operating on a daily basis between Bludenz and Vienna, earning a reputation in the Austrian business world as a punctual and environmentally friendly transport alternative. Both contracting partners have now officially extended the cooperation, meaning that the 'Orange Combi Cargo' will be connecting the west of Austria to the nation’s capital for at least another three years. The OCC will also continue making a stopover in Hall in Tyrol, where additional goods are loaded.

Replacing around 60 truck journeys between Vienna and western Austria every day, the positive environmental impact of the OCC is plain to see, with the multimodal solution saving around 9,000 tons of CO2 annually, prompting Walter Konzett, Director Product Management Land Transport at Gebrüder Weiss to point out this has meant the relocation of some 180,000 truck journeys since commencement.

Not that the service will necessarily stand still as the train offers shippers the opportunity to connect cargo directly to Romania or Turkey via ÖBB’s Vienna intermodal hub. Further transport integration measures are also planned with the aim of offering customers from western Austria, eastern Switzerland and southern Germany an even more convenient and environmentally friendly way to connect to destinations in South-East Europe. Bernhard Ebner, Head of the Intermodal Division of ÖBB RCG commented:

“By expanding the network along Austria’s east-west axis, we are making a significant contribution to environmental protection efforts as well as fostering better conditions to continue promoting the drive to use rail more in the future.”

Meanwhile the push to switch freight from the ocean to intermodal land based services continues apace on the so called ‘Iron Silk Road’ between China and Europe. With China’s Golden Week holiday in full swing, the ongoing issues affecting ocean freight container imports into the UK from the Far East is making one independent freight forwarder smile, as Tony Cole, head of supply chain services at Davies Turner commenting on the firm’s direct Express China Rail overland service, points out:

“UK importers are facing a tsunami of container shipping issues at present. Schedule disruption, ongoing delays in vessel discharge and loading, which is leading to ships ‘cutting and running’ or diverting, prolonged turnaround times on the quay, shortages of dock labour and container haulage, as well as import containers missing planned connections to rail, has resulted in a surge of interest for our direct express LCL & FCL rail service from China to the UK.

“Unlike the ocean freight alternative, there are no disruptions affecting the overland rail service, which typically saves clients up to 22 days and which currently could save more. And with Golden Week shut down now upon us, rail could help to keep our clients’ supply chains running. In the ocean freight environment, we also understand that additional delays are being encountered by companies that use third party port warehouses to unpack their consol containers, a costly addition in time.

“At Davies Turner unpacking and customs clearance of consolidated (LCL) containers takes place at our own depots in Birmingham, Bristol, Dartford, Glasgow and Manchester, ensuring that we have a facility local to our UK customer base to enable fast and competitive delivery their door.”

The logistics company dedicated weekly fixed-day rail intermodal import groupage service leaves the Wuhan rail hub and heads to Duisburg in Germany, from where containers are then trucked under bond to the port of Rotterdam and transported by ferry to Purfleet in East London. On-carriage is undertaken from Purfleet by truck direct to one of Davies Turner’s national distribution centres where the contents are discharged, customs cleared and delivered.