An accessible port

ERS Railways continues to build its Rotterdam network

02 February 2021
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Last year, the Covid crisis threw a few spanners in the works. And the sand at Maasvlakte proved quite a nuisance too . Still, ERS Railways continued to build its Rotterdam connections in 2020 – albeit at a slower pace than originally intended. And the company won’t be dialling back its ambitions according to Tjeerd Spierdijk. “We will need to increase the frequency and diversity of our connections.”

Boxpress

“We made substantial investments in 2020, which resulted in further growth. Although we didn’t expand at the rate envisioned beforehand. Naturally, our operations were also affected by the pandemic, together with service disruptions on the route due to maintenance arrears and ProRail’s failure to make the necessary investments.” Spierdijk joined ERS as Sales Executive for the Netherlands and Belgium in 2019 – the year of the official return of the company’s Rotterdam office. In the years since, he has noticed a resurgence of interest in rail freight infrastructure – which is a good thing in his view. “Take Theemswegtracé. That connection will definitely benefit the projected growth in rail freight transport in years ahead.”

Company trains

ERS Railways was founded in 1994 and has been a part of Hupac since 2018. Its Swiss parent company focuses specifically on continental freight, with ERS handling maritime activities. Working in partnership with EGS, the company offers two network connections from Rotterdam: to Nuremburg and Munich respectively – both three times a week. Everyone is free to book room for their cargo on these routes.

In addition to these connections, ERS also maintains its own network link with Kornwestheim, near Stuttgart. This service is offered three times a week as well. From there, the company offers a weekly connection to the shuttle service to the German town of Singen, on the border with Switzerland. ERS also has a number of dedicated ‘company trains’ that are reserved for a single client: five connections per week to Wörth and one weekly connection to Duisburg. These trains are operated by the ‘traction joint venture’ boxXpress , of which ERS is a shareholder.

“We increasingly seek to work in partnership with other firms,” explains Spierdijk. “If we truly intend to realise the modal shift and expand rail transport, we will need to increase the frequency and diversity of our connections. This is something of a chicken and egg situation, because from the client’s perspective, a single train is as good as none at all. And it’s also far from ideal from a cost perspective. Working together allows you to combine freight, and in many cases it amounts to just the ‘nudge in the right direction’ needed to create the necessary critical mass for a higher frequency connection.” Indeed Spierdijk expects that in the near future, ERS will be able to set up several more interesting connections by combining its services with the networks of its parent company : “You can actually see something like this with our shuttle to Kornwestheim, which we took over from Hupac in 2018 and transformed into a maritime hinterland connection.”

Boxxpress

Western Ports

In Spierdijk’s view, if Rotterdam hopes to persuade German companies to ship more freight via its port, it will have to expand rail connections with the hinterland . “The German market has traditionally been focussed on the country’s ‘Northern Ports’. Nearly all these connections run daily, don’t cross any national borders, are relatively short and are simply more familiar to German clients. To take market share from these players, we will have to step up the frequency of our services. You can gradually see this taking shape though. There has been a growing interest in the ‘Western Ports’ recently – including among other intermodal operators.”

Spierdijk expects further growth along its Rotterdam connections in the course of 2021. “We intend to optimise capacity utilisation on our existing network shuttle services. In addition, we expect to realise extra volumes on new connections. In principle, rail freight is slightly more expensive than other options. But due to the low water and congestion surcharges of recent years, our rates have proven very competitive. In addition, this specific mode of transport is often swifter and more reliable than other solutions. And this is recognised by our clients. Rail has clear potential – particularly as a transport option for the automotive and chemical industries.”

Sustainability

Moreover, sustainability plays an increasingly important part in clients’ choice of a specific mode of transport. “Here too, rail achieves very high marks. And we are very favourably positioned in this respect thanks to our involvement in the boxXpress traction venture . They operate a fleet of 30 sustainable Siemens Vectron E-locs. Another interesting development is that as of this year, our German rail operations are powered in their entirety by Norwegian green hydrogen. On top of this, we have around 900 modern container wagons at our disposal: with low-noise brakes that only need to be serviced once every 240,000 km or so. We look to the future with confidence!”

Source: ERS Railways