Image: Lineas

Belgian ‘beer train’ will save 5,000 annual lorry road miles

An innovative Belgian ‘beer train’ has made its first delivery from brewery to supplier, and its new thrice-weekly service is set to take some 5,000 lorries off the roads every year, thanks to a new environmentally-friendly collaboration.

Lineas, Belgium’s principal rail freight operator, is at the heart of the pilot project which has begun moving thousands of litres of Jupiler beer from the Anheuser-Busch InBev brewery near Liège to food and drink wholesaler Delhaize’s warehouse in Ninove, just outside Brussels.

Sustainable rail option

The service has been set up with the help of the Province of East Flanders, as part of a concerted effort to address pressure on the nation’s roads by creating opportunities for a sustainable rail freight option. The main effect will be felt on the ring road around Brussels, where until now lorries have been making daily deliveries between the two sites. Described by those involved as an ‘unnatural collaboration’ because it brings together partners from different sectors, the expectation is that a three-times weekly train service will, in the long term, mean 5,000 fewer lorry journeys being made every year.

Denis Koops, CEO of Delhaize, said: “The beer that we purchase from AB InBev is usually loaded onto lorries near Liège and brought to our distribution centre in Ninove via road. This adds up to a few thousand lorries per year. Sustainability is central at Delhaize and that’s why we always look for solutions to reduce the pressure on mobility, thereby contributing to a sustainable future.

‘Only the beginning’

“Road transport remains necessary in every distribution system, but Delhaize wants to look for sustainable modes of transport, such as the railway, inland shipping or other alternatives, whenever possible. I am very proud that we are able to keep thousands of lorries off the road every year via this unique collaboration. I also hope that this is only the beginning and that others will follow our lead.”

Geert Pauwels, CEO of Lineas, added: “Lineas has set the objective to offer such competitive and high-quality rail products that enterprises consciously choose the railway. This collaboration, in which a retailer like Delhaize transports a consumer product like beer by rail, is new in Belgium. Thanks to this kind of innovative rail solutions, which we develop together with clients, we can breathe new life into the railway and make an important contribution to achieving climate objectives and reducing traffic jams.”

Promoting intermodal

François Bellot, Belgium’s Federal Minister of Mobility, said: “Promoting intermodal transport is one of the priorities of my policy. We actively support this through the continuation of subsidies for scattered and combined transport.This specific project, which chooses to transport beer throughout our country by rail and by lorry, is a concrete application of this policy objective. I thank Delhaize and all the partners.”

Ben Weyts, Flemish Minister of Mobility Ben Weyts, added:  “The beer train deserves to be copied. Companies don’t have to stare blindly at traffic jams at their front doors: there are often excellent alternatives for the traffic jams at the back door, like waterways or railways. When partners work together and look at alternatives with an open mind, thousands of lorries can be removed from our roads.”

Green logistics

Alexander Soenen, Logistics Director, at AB InBev, said: “The beer train is a typical example of how we at AB take the lead in green logistics. We constantly look for the best combinations to deliver beer to the consumer in a sustainable manner, without losing freshnesss and quality, via our multimodal transport chain. The beer boat and the ecocombi are other examples of how we want to fulfil our ambitious, worldwide objective to achieve at least a 25 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide by the end of 2017.”

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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