New combinations

Bildmontage Designerstuhl und Kartenauschnitt

New combinations

Europe is intermodal. How Swedish furniture gets from Thuringia to Switzerland.


The future belongs to intermodal transport. This conviction isn’t restricted to DB Cargo. A growing number of customers are turning to the intelligent integration of different modes of transport to bring reliability, sustainability and flexibility together. One example is the freight forwarder Gartner, which has teamed up with DB Cargo and Amberrail to develop a network of efficient rail links for a Swedish furniture producer. 
Six trains have been crossing Germany every week since April 2019, carrying freight for the Swiss market from the Thuringian capital of Erfurt to the service’s terminal in Basel. “Our holistic intermodal concept requires reliability and sustainability. Thanks to DB Cargo, we were able to implement our plans and so move our customer transport services onto trains”, says Jochen Weber at Gartner.

Distribution centre at Erfurt

Martin Ritterhaus, Head of Carrier Sales Accounts at DB Cargo AG, says, “We created a closed rail system for our customers that works extremely well. Each customer makes its own decisions about how it wants to use this system.” Erfurt is the site of a large distribution centre operated by the furniture maker. Goods are brought here from countries outside of Germany before being dispatched to different destinations. Furniture for Switzerland is loaded into containers in Erfurt and brought by lorry to the station in the suburb of Vieselbach. From here, there are three weekly departures: at 1:10 am on Tuesday and Thursday, and at 7 pm on Friday. 
A few hours later, the trains reach the hub at Mannheim, which is subject to extremely heavy rail traffic. Trains coming from Europe’s North Sea ports follow the Rhine valley before crossing the Alps, while the city also lies on the routes of trains connecting central Europe with destinations to the west in France. A new driver takes over the furniture shuttle, which continues its journey with the same locomotive.
The block train hauls 22 wagons, each of which carries two containers. As Switzerland is outside the EU, the load has to go through customs at the border crossing in Weil am Rhein. Once the train arrives in the Basel terminal, the containers are transferred to lorries that bring them to the customer’s various distribution bases in Switzerland. The customer organises first and last-mile transportation by lorry to get the freight to its final destination. 

Transfer to trains

“This concept sees us shift traffic from lorries to trains in the long term”, says Sylke Hussmann, Head of Carrier Sales at DB Cargo’s Intermodal Sales division. “Our trains make life easier for people between Erfurt and Weil am Rhein by taking some 12,000 lorry trips off the road every year. This is definitely an impressive achievement.” 
The customer is also very satisfied with the sustainable solution. Martin Ritterhaus says: “Conceivably, we will be able to use this model to encourage more companies to switch to trains.” 

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