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More transport by rail is a must. Otherwise, we will not achieve our climate targets. Yet some companies seem reluctant to switch from road to intermodal transport. A misjudgment as there are only advantages. In this series, we talk to shippers who have already made the step.

Tekst: Marco Barneveld

With all eyes on the world focused on the COP26 in Glasgow, one thing is clear: rail freight transport is the way to achieve climate gains and the climate targets set. In fact, more transport by rail is required if we want to achieve the climate objectives. After all, transport is responsible for 25% of CO2 emissions. Rail is only responsible for 0.4%.

Fortunately, many leading companies have already made the switch from road to intermodal transport.

The benefits are immense

Company? Swinkels Family Brewers
Produces? Beers like Bavaria, Swinckels, and Palm
Who? Fred Hooft, Global Logistics Manager

Why intermodal?
“As a family business, Swinkels sees it as their duty to ensure that after our generation, countless generations can still enjoy themselves. Swinkels wants to grow, but in a sustainable way.”

You were real pioneers in the intermodal field, I understood.
“Yes, that’s right. We were one of the first to use intermodal transport to Spain, for example.”

When did Swinkels start using intermodal transport?
“When I started in 2008 at what was then still called Bavaria. We were already doing a lot of export back then. I was appointed to arrange the transport better. There are many advantages to intermodal transportation. The CO2 savings are just one of them.

How significant is this CO2 saving?
“Each year, we transport some ten thousand containers in Europe by rail and road intermodally. That is a reduction of 30 to 40% in CO2 compared to road transport alone. That is enormous. For that reason alone, companies should look into the various logistics options.”

Wow. That is indeed enormous. Do you see more advantages?
“Yes indeed. The payload is much higher. Per truck, it is twenty-two tonnes. Per wagon, it is several tonnes higher, depending on the country. But it is also much easier to control. With a truck, timing when it arrives isn’t easy. You don’t know what kind of delays the lorries are experiencing. With the train, it takes a little longer, but you can time it perfectly. You know when a train will arrive at a terminal. The last thirty to forty kilometers are not so complicated to arrange by time. As a result, the customer does not have to wait all day for a load but knows perfectly when our load will arrive. The transit time is higher, but in terms of performance, we have improved considerably. On top of that, the availability of truck drivers has gone down a lot. This affects us much less because of our choice of transportation. There are only advantages to intermodal transportation.”

Is there anything you would like to see improved?
“That we would also be able to provide intermodal services in places where it is not currently possible. For example, I have been looking for a connection in Northern France for a long time. That is a pity because we would like to expand our intermodal transport even more. But it is challenging to find a party that handles the whole package.”

What exactly do you mean by the latter?
“That we always work with one party for pre-transport, rail transport, and post-transport. That works most smoothly because there is no miscommunication anywhere along the way. When you work with one party, everything is better coordinated, and there is no discussion. That’s nice.”

Do you have any advice for companies interested in intermodal transport?
“Working with one party is my first advice. Apart from that, I would recommend everyone to go and talk and investigate the possibilities. And don’t be afraid. I understand from colleagues at other companies that some logistics managers can be. But that’s not necessary at all. It doesn’t seem very easy, but it is. There are plenty of good parties who can arrange everything for you from A to Z. The benefits are immense. And helping the climate is certainly not the least important benefit. We owe it to future generations.”

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