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We offer flexibility to mid-sized companies

Maarten de Ridder, Head of International Sales at DB Cargo, on Regional Sales as link between customers and the DB Cargo network.

Mr de Ridder, how has the role of the Regional Sales Division changed over the last few years?

DE RIDDER: Up to around ten years ago we were mainly working with key accounts that brought large volumes to our network. This has changed. We are now increasingly also focusing on small and mid-sized customers. However, in comparison, these customers require more intensive support. The role of the Regional Sales Division is to provide that. Incidentally, that these customers need more support is perhaps even more true in other countries than it is in Germany. While in Germany it is the major industrial companies that have trad­itionally worked with rail freight transport, in other countries – such as Italy – we mainly deal with mid-sized structures.

How well known is DB Cargo in Europe?

DE RIDDER: Deutsche Bahn is a well-known brand in Germany, and so is DB Cargo as a result. That’s not yet the case in south-eastern Europe and Italy. We still need to raise our profile there and do much more to win customers. As a result, the role played by Regional Sales in Europe will become more and more important – providing highly customised customer support that is tailored to the structures in the relevant country.

How can DB Cargo support small and mid-sized companies?

DE RIDDER: We are still a long way off having sidings everywhere – we don’t always have direct access to rail. Instead we have an extensive network of railports and a single-wagon system that enables us to transport smaller shipments. To that end we offer our customers supplementary logistics services. We organise the initial and final legs by road all the way to the customer’s door, often in close collaboration with colleagues at DB Schenker. We also offer supplementary services at the railports, such as interim storage, sorting pallets, repacking and commissioning cargo.

What is the role of the railports in this?

DE RIDDER: As a rule, the railports are operated as independent companies. We work closely with the operators – for example, with our partner Cabooter in Blerick in the Netherlands. We send wagonloads of paper products from Italy to the Netherlands and the wagons are filled right to the top. At Cabooter, the freight is repacked and loaded onto pallets. They are then transported onwards to the stores to be sold.

What are the advantages of the single- wagon system for mid-sized companies?

The customers can take delivery of the wagon and take their time to load or unload it, day or night. You don’t have that kind of flexibility with a HGV driver.

DE RIDDER: With single-wagon transport we have an open system that is available every day. On top of that, the wagons are available for flexible time periods. The customers can take delivery of the wagon and take their time to load or unload it, day or night. You don’t have that kind of flexibility with a HGV driver. And of course we can also transport much heavier loads than HGV can. I should also mention the environmental aspect: an 80 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions compared to HGV, and a huge burden taken off our roads.

Is it worth it for a small company to set up their own sidings?

DE RIDDER: I’ll give you an example. A com- pany in southern Germany that exports paper to England for the packaging industry has, until now, been transhipping its cargo to rail via a local railport. In the past it has even transhipped its freight onto block trains going to Cuxhaven, where the freight was then loaded onto cargo ships. The customer has now become very fond of our single-wagon system because it gives them more flexibility and allows them to transport smaller volumes. To gain even more flexibility in future, the customer is now considering building their own sidings. We – the Regional Sales Division – are the customer’s first point of contact for that. Any customer who is interested in building new sidings or reactivating closed sidings can come to us for advice. We liaise with the competent authorities – the government supports sidings with very attractive conditions.

How do you establish a close exchange with companies and industry sectors?

DE RIDDER: In addition to face-to-face customer discussions, we are also represented at events organised by the chambers of industry and commerce. We work with companies to organise presentations and hold networking meetings. We do this not only in Germany but across Europe, working with our partners in DB Cargo’s national subsidiaries.

How do you get companies interested in your rail services?

DE RIDDER: You can only do that when you have a personal relationship with them. We have to be honest and explain our business model to companies. We must make it clear to them that we are a large company in which all our staff collaborate to find solutions for our customers – we all pull together here.
Interview Mirko Heinemann