Rolling highway from Germany to Lithuania a new success for modal shift

It is a new accomplishment in the shift-to-rail policy for Europe. LG Cargo, PKP Cargo and CargoBeamer tested a rolling highway service between Germany and Lithuania. It is the first rail piggyback connection for the Baltic States.

22 semi-trailers have been shifted from road to rail due to the pilot shipment of new intermodal service. It connected Kaldenkirchen Intermodal Terminal in Germany, which is located close in 6 kilometres from the Dutch railway hub of Venlo, to the Lithuanian facility in Šeštokai, close to the border with Poland. The latter point has a European gauge railway and, therefore, it does not require additional transhipment operations due to the break of gauge.

At Šeštokai terminal, semi-trailers were connected to the tractor units and continued their way on the roads to the final destinations in the Baltic States. “This historic pilot carriage of semi-trailers symbolises a major turning point in the freight transportation market, where synergies between several modes of transport guarantee fast and reliable freight transportation for all participants in the logistics chain”, said Egidijus Lazauskas, CEO of LG Cargo.

Customers and partners

The pilot freight train travelled a distance of around 3,000 kilometres in two days and arrived to Šeštokai on Thursday, 14 May. It transport 22 semi-trailers of eight transport companies Girteka Logistics, Vlantana, Hoptransa, A. Gricius’s, DSV, Arcese, Solotransa and Nokvera. For the westbound shipment, 23 semi-trailers are scheduled for the delivery to Kaldenkirchen. As a result, the overall result of the pilot connection will be 45 semi-trailers removed from the European roads. In the future, this figure will be much more if the intermodal service becomes regular.

“Lithuania is the home of several big logistics players and we see a future market for sustainable rail transportation of road trailers from Central Europe into the Baltics. We look forward to grow this business together with Lithuanian Railways,” noted Hans-Juergen Weidemann, CEO of CargoBeamer. His company provided its innovative technology that allows the freight companies to load semi-trailers onto wagons within minutes. PKP Cargo, in its turn, performed the haulage operations in Germany and Poland. LG Cargo, a subsidiary of Lietuvos geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways), was responsible for cross-border haulage from Poland to Lithuania and transhipment in Šeštokai.

Unloading of piggyback train in Sestokai, Lithuania, source: LG Cargo

More opportunities

All the partners of this project are interested in the development of the Kaldenkirchen – Šeštokai – Kaldenkirchen intermodal service. “This pilot is of great importance to us as it will make it possible to test new possibilities for freight transport from Lithuania via Poland to Western Europe and in the opposite direction. This route is currently dominated by road transport and we want to change this unfavourable structure. Therefore, together with our partners, we work on preparing a competitive transport offer,” emphasises Czesław Warsewicz, CEO of PKP Cargo.

In this regard, the possible options could be the extension of the route to other points or its combination with other rolling highways. It is worth to recall that CargoBeamer has an intermodal service dedicated to the semi-trailers and that connects Germany to Italy. It starts in Kaldenkirchen, runs to the Italian terminal in Domodossola via Switzerland.

Impact on environment

The rolling highway between Germany and Lithuania will also have a positive impact on the environment. According to estimations, this service will help to reduce the CO2 emissions by up to 100 tonnes compared to transportation by articulated lorries. “In addition, trains provide safe transport of goods, compared to lorries, as the accident rate on railways is many times lower than on roads”, added Czesław Warsewicz from PKP Cargo.

It is worth to note that the Kaldenkirchen – Šeštokai – Kaldenkirchen intermodal service is in line with the EU policy. The European Commission aims to achieve that 30 per cent of goods carried at a distance of more than 300 kilometres will be transported by rail or water transport by 2030. By 2050, this figure should exceed 50 per cent.

Author: Mykola Zasiadko

Mykola Zasiadko is editor of online trade magazines RailTech.com and RailFreight.com.

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