Image: courtesy EWS/Lineas

Railport to manage rail transport in Port of Antwerp

Railport Antwerpen will start coordinating the rail activities at the Port of Antwerp in order to improve the relatively low share of rail transport, currently at 7 per cent. Railport is a joint initiative of the Port of Antwerp Authority, Havenbedrijf Antwerpen, Maatschappij Linkerscheldeoever (MLSO) and umbrella organisations Essenscia Vlaanderen and VOKA-Alfaport.

The management of railway within the port is currently carried out by the national infrastructure manager Infrabel. However, it has been criticised for the poor performance of rail freight at the port. “The Port of Antwerp is hampered to use its full modal shift potential due to the lack of modern rail infrastructure management”, said Guy Janssens, Chief Cooperate Affairs Officer at the Port of Antwerp last week at the Rhine-Alpine Corridor conference 2018.

Railport will actively be involved in the management of rail transport within the port, including intermodal transport, the Port Authority said. The main task will be coordinating the various rail activities. Railport will function as a bridge between railway undertakings, port companies, shippers, terminals and infrastructure managers. “The share of rail transport within the port currently represents a near 7 per cent. In order to continue guaranteeing sustainable growth, this needs to change urgently. We have therefore, together with our partners, decided to lift Railport to a higher level”, Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of the Port Authority said. Up till now, Railport was mainly involved in research activities and test projects.

Infrabel

What the new role of Infrabel will be is not clear. The Port Authority speaks of a deepening of the cooperation with the infrastructure manager. “After all, we want to develop a new management model for rail at the port together with Infrabel”, said Vandermeiren. Infrabel currently manages the entire railway network in Belgium, in contrast to neighbouring countries, where the management of railway in ports is usually in the hands of the port authorities. This is at least the case in Hamburg and Rotterdam, the main competitors for the Port of Antwerp.

Simultaneously with the new role for Railport is the assignment of a new CEO in the person of Nils van Vliet, who previously worked for the Belgian railway undertaking Crossrail Benelux. “I am certain that with Railport, we can give rail as a modality the push that it need in order to gain a far more prominent role, and I am happy to contribute to this soon”, he commented.

Iron Rhine connection

Elaborating on the low market share of rail, Janssens in Brussel outlined that besides the poor management, the connection of the port to its natural hinterland, the North Rhine-Westphalia region in Germany must be enhanced. This must be done by removing bottlenecks, but also by moving ahead with the 3RX project, the latest version of the Iron Rhine presented by the Flemish government.

The Iron Rhine, connecting the Port of Antwerp to Germany through the Dutch province of Limburg has been closed since 1991. After several pledges for the re-opening, the Flemish have now proposed the 3RX version, which approaches the German border through the Dutch city of Venlo, instead of Roermond. At a cost of 770 million Euros, this version of the railway line is only half the cost of the original plan. “This is by far the most important cross-border project with eminent European added value”, Janssens said at the conference.

Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is editor of RailFreight.com, online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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