Rail

Antwerp is one of the most important rail ports in Europe. New initiatives will make its position even stronger.

Antwerp is one of the most important rail ports in Europe with more than 250 goods trains per day, a number that is set to rise in the next few years. However, a number of high-level, long-term initiatives are needed in order to improve operation and marketing of rail transport within the port, in combination with distributed transport within the port itself. Antwerp Port Authority itself has already taken initiatives for holding fans, parking facilities for RID wagons (governed by the Regulations concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Rail) and cleaning facilities for tank wagons.

Spoorwagons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In order to shift even more traffic from road to rail, large infrastructure projects are currently being carried out, such as the Liefkenshoek rail tunnel,

and the new rail connection between the right and left banks of the Scheldt now under construction by Infrabel (the Belgian track operator).  Trains will be able to run on these goods line as of 2014.

In the meantime a great deal of attention is being paid to distributed transport, as the port of Antwerp is very spread out geographically with more than 1,000 kilometres of internal rail track. In any case a major port such as Antwerp has an obligation to itself and to its users to offer a full range of services. It is therefore absolutely essential to keep this transport activity, since it meets the needs of a number of economic sectors that make Antwerp so specific and that generate huge added value.

For among others the petrochemical cluster in the port, JIT delivery is key to correct operation of various production plants. Indeed, reliable delivery is vital and in many cases there are no alternatives: storage and transport of chemical products are governed by strict regulations, and road transport is not always practical or indeed possible.

For breakbulk handlers too, it is important to have distributed transport that is reliable and affordable. Hundreds of rail wagons with steel products are handled in the port every day. From there they are shipped to destinations all over the world, or are loaded onto wagons for hinterland destinations. Antwerp Port Authority has therefore set up a Distributed Transport Taskforce to ensure these needs are met.

Within NMBS-Logistics a structural process has been initiated which in turn has led to a large number of initiatives aimed at making big improvements in the quality of distributed transport. The expansion of holding fans and parking facilities for RID wagons together with various other services has also had a positive impact, making this type of transport more reliable while providing the flexibility needed for the logistics of production processes.
The Port Authority is prepared to help shape the rail landscape, possibly in the form of a covenant under which the Port Authority acts as a neutral manager, playing a more guiding and coordinating role among the main players and Infrabel.

In response to the financial problems encountered by B-Logistics and the reduced services for distributed transport, a large-scale survey of 25 companies and stakeholders was carried out in collaboration with  essenscia (chemical industry association) and Alfaport (federation of port industry associations). Based on an analysis of the main problems, eight areas for improvement were formulated and specific activities carried out for each of them.
The Port Authority also issued a plea for port-wide transport management, as it is in everyone’s interest to be able to follow all the movements of the different operators in the port in real time. Furthermore, a neutral party would be able to manage the traffic flows more efficiently, avoiding potential conflicts between the various operators in the port.