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Rail shuttle to ‘Gateway to Switzerland’ adds second run

Weil am Rhein is also known as the ‘Gateway to Switzerland’. It lies close to where the German, French and Swiss borders meet. What’s more, the German town forms the point where inland vessels can start or end navigating the River Rhine. Multi Modal Rail recently launched a direct rail connection between Rotterdam and Weil am Rhein. As of February 2019, the frequency of this shuttle service has been stepped up to twice a week.

Photo: Multi Modal Rail

The German town of Weil am Rhein is effectively a suburb of Basel, Switzerland’s third-largest city and an important international junction for railways and motorways. Basel has flourishing pharmaceutical and chemical sectors. “Multi Modal Rail’s long-term strategy initially included an additional connection to Basel via inland shipping over the Rhine,” explains Toon Habers, Managing Director of Multi Modal Rail. “But then we were faced with exceptionally low water levels, over a relatively long period. To keep momentum, we made a change of course and started looking into rail instead. A green and reliable form of transport.”

Weil am Rhein in 15 hours

Multi Modal Rail started testing the connection with a weekly schedule in November, and the service proved popular with its clients from the outset. Which is why the firm has now decided to ramp up the frequency to twice a week. Every Tuesday, the train leaves Rotterdam in the early hours of the morning, pulling into the German border town by the end of the same day. And on Wednesday afternoon, the train starts on the second half of its round trip. The journey is repeated on Friday afternoon in Rotterdam, with the shuttle departing from Weil am Rhein on Saturday afternoon. Habers: “We make direct stops at four Rotterdam terminals: ECT, RWG, APMT and Euromax. And we also work together with PortShuttle. PortShuttle uses the free capacity on our trains to transport containers from one Rotterdam terminal to the other. And it also works the other way round. Sometimes we need to load containers that are located at a different terminal. In that case, they can be picked up by a different operator that was heading out that way anyway. The perfect solution. Once our train has left Rotterdam, it travels directly to Weil am Rhein’s Duss-Terminal in a matter of 15 hours.”

Customs

One of the big advantages of the Duss-Terminal is that it lies directly on the intersection of Switzerland and the European Union. “In other words, the terminal has both Swiss and EU customs status, making it all the more interesting for our clients. It’s a bimodal junction that can accommodate trains and trucks. We opened a local office near the terminal this month, which takes care of commercial details and transport preparations and follow-up,” says Habers. “This office is headed by Stefan Leijdekkers. He is thoroughly familiar with both the region and intermodal transport.” The rail shuttle can transport a maximum of 1,500 tonnes of deep sea containers at a time, with a capacity of 96 TEU. “We carry all sorts of freight, from beer, furniture and paper to bikes, chemicals and mopeds.”

For the past two years, Multi Modal Rail has also been operating a rail connection between Rotterdam and Strasbourg, located some 150 km from Weil am Rhein. The terminal there offers a great connection with the industrial hinterland of northern France. “When you add our new rail connection with Weil am Rhein, we actually cover the entire French-German-Swiss border region with our trimodal services.”

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