The rail operator H&S Container Line is introducing an additional round trip between Andernach in Germany and the two container terminals in the Deurganck dock in the port of Antwerp.
H&S already operates on this route, but is raising the frequency to twice per week thanks to financial support from Antwerp Port Authority.
The support offered to H&S Container Line is the result of a Call for Proposals (CfP) launched in October last year by the Port Authority to attract projects for improving the rail connectivity between Antwerp on the one hand and the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions on the other.
In addition to H&S Container Line several other operators also submitted projects, but not all of them met the conditions for financial support. However, this does not mean that these projects are not being put into practice: B Logistics introduced a new rail service to Ludwigshaven at the beginning of this year, while DB Cargo for its part has begun operating to Wanne Eickel and Mannheim.
The Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions are among the most heavily industrialised in Germany, and thus also the largest generators of cargo. Antwerp is the nearest port to both of them, and so it is the natural gateway to their hinterland.
In 2015 a total of 64 million tonnes of freight was carried between Antwerp and Germany. Although the majority of the freight from the Rhine region found its way to Antwerp by water, a great deal of it still goes by road.
The Port Authority therefore issued a CfP to encourage intermodal operators to introduce a new rail shuttle or to upgrade an existing rail service. The projects selected by the Port Authority could count on limited financial support during a certain period of time.
“A significant proportion of the cargo between Antwerp and the German hinterland will also have to be carried by rail in the future. As a Port Authority we want to support all projects that contribute to this essential modal shift,” explained a spokesperson.
H&S Container Line began with a new, direct, open rail connection to Andernach in December 2016. The intermodal train does one round trip per week between Andernach and quays 1700 and 1742 in the Deurganck dock. To raise the frequency to two round trips per week H&S submitted a project with a request for financial support.
“The subsidy from the Port Authority will enable us to offer a sustainable rail product both for customers in Antwerp and for those based in the Rhine region, to supplement the already well-developed barge services,” explains Heiko Brückner, CEO of H&S Container Line. Andernach lies right in the middle of the region covered by the CfP, and so the Port Authority was interested in this project right from the start.
The traction is being provided by DB Cargo, in testimony to this German operator’s belief in the further development of Antwerp as a rail port. DB Cargo aims to boost the share of rail transport in the modal split, which means that new rail products will have to be developed. “For this reason we seek more intensive collaboration with the port of Antwerp,” said a spokesperson for DB Cargo.
This is the second time that the Port Authority has organised a Call for Proposals to improve the rail service for a particular region. At the end of 2015 it issued a CfP to develop rail connections between the port of Antwerp and Central and Eastern Europe.
As a result of this CfP three projects were chosen in March last year, with new rail services to Poland, the Czech Republic and Austria respectively. “Although our financial support has to be limited in order to comply with the rules for state subsidies, it still provides useful help for rail operators to introduce additional services, since the rail market is very capital-intensive,” concluded the Port Authority spokesperson.