Cool Rail’s fresh produce service lowers emissions

A pan-European refrigerated rail service between Germany and Spain is providing an environmentally attractive alternative to shippers of fresh produce. The Colruyt Group is using Cool Rail to import citrus fruits from Spain in trucks which significantly cut CO2 emissions.

Containers go by rail from Valencia in southern Spain to the German river port city of Cologne, then by road to the Cool Rail distribution centre in Halle, Belgium, before returning to Cologne with empty bins. In this way, Cool Rail is being seen as the embodiment of how a modern, sustainable alternative to road transport should operate.

Sustainable alternative

The Belgian Colruyt Group, which has supermarkets in Belgium, France, The Netherlands and Luxembourg, says each container travels 83 per cent fewer truck kilometres, resulting in a 70 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions, and is another step in their ambitions to make company-wide transport more sustainable.

The new link also enables the group to fully optimise its return cargo. On the same site where citrus fruits are unloaded, containers are loaded from washed EPS folding containers before being returned to Cologne. Wim Verghote, Project Manager for Colruyt, said: “In this way, the containers are always filled and we air ship at any time. In addition, the combined Valencia-Cologne-Hal path takes a day longer than the full trip by truck. Therefore, the freshness of products is guaranteed.”

Modal shift

In addition to the Colruyt Group’s citrus service, the Cool Rail link will also eventually transport fresh broccoli and salads between the two cities. Two trains are now running every week, and this is expected to soon increase to five as more partners get involved.

For the Colruyt Group, participation in Cool Rail is part of its ambition to achieve a more sustainable international transport, a key part of which is the modal shift from road to rail and sea transport. Last year, it cut more than 3.1 million kilometres per truck from Europe’s roads. “We are pleased to participate in this initiative now, and we continue to seek opportunities to further reduce the impact of our freight,” added Mr Verghote.

International initiative

Cool Ride is an international initiative involving six partners in the retail, logistics and transport sectors from The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Wim Verghote added: “It is remarkable that so many partners are working together for a more sustainable transport. We hope this initiative will inspire others to take action. ”

Cool Rail project was launched by Bakker Barendrecht, a Dutch wholesaler of fruit and vegetables, and Euro Pool System, the logistics business, with support from the Port of Rotterdam. To develop and implement Cool Rail, they worked with consulting firm Novus Mercator, while among the other major participating distributors are Albert Heijn (The Netherlands) and Edeka (Germany).

Author: Simon Weedy

Simon is a journalist for - a dedicated online platform for all the news about the rail freight sector

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