Hupac’s numbers during 2023 decreased across the board

Image: Hupac

Hupac’s volumes in general fell by 11.7 per cent, from 975,000 to 845,000 road consignments. In financial terms, this translated into a “consolidated result” of -6,2 million euros. Transalpine volumes, the largest market segment for the company, decreased by 7.6 per cent. For non-transalpine traffic, the drop was set at 14.9 per cent. “Maritime hinterland traffic from the seaports of Hamburg, Bremerhaven, Wilhelmshaven and Rotterdam” also declined by 13.2 per cent.

The main causes for this decline across the board were the economic problems in Europe connected to the war in Ukraine as well as higher traction and energy prices. Moreover, infrastructure issues also contributed to these figures. Because of a derailment in August 2023, for example, the Gotthard Base Tunnel cannot be exploited at its maximum capacity at least until Autumn 2024.

In addition, Hupac mentioned the “poor quality of the rail network, particularly in Germany” as another main factor for the general decline in 2023. These conditions have led to various capacity bottlenecks, delays and cancellations. Unfortunately, it seems that bottlenecks along the Rhine-Alpine Corridor, not only in Germany, will remain an issue for quite some time. All these issue significantly affected Hupac’s services, with punctuality along the north-south axis of Swizterland falling below 50 per cent and cancellations exceeding 10 per cent.

‘Even small measure would bring relief’

Hupac shared some suggestions that might, at least partially, solve these issues. First, they are asking for more storage sidings that would allow trains to leave terminals in case of disruptions or be parked along the corridor until they can continue their journeys. The Swiss company is also highlighting that an additional 15 million euros in funds are needed to boost combined transport between southern Germany and the French region of Alsace.

Moreover, the company underlined the problems caused by the lack of alternative routes to the Rhine Valley line. Hupac claimed, for example, that the upgrade of the Belgium-Metz-Strasbourg-Basel railway to accommodate 4-metre profile should be made a priority. In Germany, people have been vocal about building an alternative railway between Wiesbaden and Neuwied which would be solely dedicated to freight traffic.

A few positive aspects

A few positives can be drawn from Hupac’s review of 2023. Namely, the company started offering services along the left bank of the Rhine River through the Worth-Lauterbourg-Basel route. Nonetheless, such operations remain costly ones, as hybrid locomotives and bilingual drivers are necessary. Moreover, in 2023, Hupac won the tender to manage and operate the La Llagosta terminal, near Barcelona, which will be ready in 2025. For the near future, Hupac is also investing in three intermodal terminals in northern Italy.

Outlook for 2024

For the current year, Hupac does not expect big changes compared to 2023. The company’s network is also being developed, with the takeover of operations at the Köln Nord terminal, and planned frequency increases for the Zeebrugge-Piacenza and Rotterdam-Brescia services. “Another project in the pipeline is the connection of the port of Lübeck to the Hupac network via Ludwigshafen as a hub”, the company concluded.

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Author: Marco Raimondi

Marco Raimondi is an editor of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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