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Flexible solutions to Spain

DB Cargo Logistics is planning transport operations for mega-trailers on pocket wagons through France.

The journey from Saarbrucken to Perpignan in southern France is just under 1,000 kilometres. Where previously it has only been trains and lorries tearing along the roads and railways, DB Cargo Logistics is now hoping to win over customers with a new concept. “From next year, we’re planning to transport large semi-trailers on pocket wagons by rail,” explains Andreas Weiss from DB Cargo Logistics GmbH’s Sales & Operations Centre. “With fewer and fewer new customers having access to sidings of their own, this concept is the perfect way of combining road and rail.” The plan is to operate regular trains five days a week between Saarbrucken and Perpignan at the foot of the Pyrenees. There, at the PPG Saint Charles Terminal, the trailers are attached to tractor units again, and continue by road towards their destination in Spain.

Flexibility in international transport operations
The reason behind this development is the requirements of the automotive industry, which relies on rail to connect plants and supplier sites in Western Europe with those on the Iberian Peninsula. However, automotive customers are looking for greater flexibility. For example, DB Cargo Logistics manages the whole inter-plant network for Opel, all the way to Spain. The rail company, working closely with the Spanish subsidiary Transfesa, operates mega-combis from Eisenach to Saragossa. However, this involves one major problem: the Spanish regulations governing the use of mega-combis on roads are different to those in Germany. Carrying out the initial and final legs by road is forbidden in Germany, which means that a number of potentials in stock transports as well as additional supplier transports cannot be realised. In addition, trains have to be re-axled in Cerbère on the border between France and Spain, which often takes a long time. “We therefore got together in various groups and thought long and hard about what alternatives might be open to us on the corridor,” said Weiss. “Since DB has never had a solution involving mega-trailers on pocket wagons, we decided to develop one, thereby expanding our potential customer base.”

Flexible Lösungen nach Spanien

One of the main tasks is to go through the complex approval process in France, which is necessary to establish the exact sections via which the pocket wagons can travel. Despite initial challenges, DB Cargo Logistics is optimistic that it, together with the French subsidiary ECR, will be able to offer an innovative and efficient train system from 2018 onwards. “We have had to plan and carry out a whole range of tests,” explains Weiss. Test transports started in mid-March 2017 and yielded very promising results, with trains completing the journey to Perpignan in 15 hours. DB Cargo Logistics has found the ideal partner for this project in the Dutch transport service provider Ewals Cargo Care – one of the leading European HGV freight forwarders in the field of combined transport. Weiss said: “Thanks to its large fleet of cranable mega-trailers and strong presence on the Iberian peninsula, Ewals is the perfect partner. In return they benefit from our train solution – it’s a win-win situation for both sides.”