The rail services to Germany and Italy are regularly in the spotlights. In their shadow, the Metrans shuttle to the Czech Republic now drives from the port of Rotterdam to Prague in the Czech Republic and Dunajská Treda in Slovakia seven times a week. And interest is growing. "Since the start, the monthly volume has increased fourfold."
Since the start of service in 2011, John Blesgraaf, Customer Services Manager of the Rail Service Center Rotterdam, has seen the cargo to and from the Czech Republic and Slovakia growing steadily. "The transit time of the train to Prague is about 24 hours, which is very acceptable for Metrans clients. The types of goods are very diverse: chemicals, electronics, healthcare, food, sometimes bulk - you name it. Most goods are so-called continental goods. This means these goods come from, or are destined for, warehouses or factories in the Netherlands. We also have 15 percent short sea. Deep sea demand is relatively low."
On half the occasions, the train continues from Prague to the Czech Cesá Trebova. From Treda, there are connecting trains to Austria, Hungary and Slovenia. RSC provides the local operational management for the shuttle. "At RSC Rotterdam, we not only perform physical activities, such as handling, storage and inspection of containers, swap bodies and trailers, but also that of operational agencies. All commercial activities take place in Prague and this is also where the reservations for the Rotterdam trains are made. We receive these by Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), and we take care of the rest: the initial transportation, planning, loading, documentation, et cetera."
"Sometimes we drive our colleagues at Operations crazy. The clients of Metrans regularly have late bookers or changed reservations while the train is about to depart. With combined effort of Operations and Customer Services, we usually manage to meet these needs and still have the train leave on time; because that is paramount!"
What contributes to the success of the shuttle, according to Blesgraaf, is the focus on innovation of Metrans. "A good example is the 80-foot wagon that they designed and had built. With 40-foot containers, it is obviously very efficient to load two of them onto an 80-foot wagon. However, these are relatively expensive wagons because by default, they need six axles. Metrans has figured out that, in light of the weight, this is not always necessary, and then developed an 80-foot wagon that can handle those loads with four axles without exceeding the axle loads. This reduces costs and improves the competitive position of the rail service."
Source: Spoor in Cijfers 2016 of Rail Cargo
Photo: Roel Hemkes