Neutral shunting services in Antwerp-North mean ‘level playing field for all’
The marshalling yard at Antwerp-North, Belgium, applies a new model for shunting operations. A collaboration between the port of Antwerp-Bruges, Lineas, Railport Antwerp and Infrabel neutralises operations in the yard and makes them equally accessible to all customers. “Level playing field for all”, claim the four partners, who are also proud of being the first to implement such a model in Europe.
What do neutral operations mean, however? A marshalling yard works very specifically, meaning customers (railway undertakings) must deploy their own personnel and equipment to assemble or disassemble trains. This costs human resources and money for shunting locomotives, among other things, possing an extra hurdle for companies.
That is precisely what the quadrilateral partnership aims to change. The marshalling yard at Antwerp-North will utilise each partner’s services and provide a comprehensive package to railway undertakings. Lineas will provide the shunting locomotives and services, while Infrabel and the Port of Antwerp-Bruges will supervise the operational model.
How is ‘equality’ ensured?
The four partners are proud to provide a level playing field for everyone. “Neutral operation of the rail facility began on April 1, 2023, meaning that it’s available to all rail operators on equal terms”, they said. The shunting services provided by Lineas will be “market-based and transparent”. What is important in this case is that the Belgian rail regulator will closely monitor prices to determine any possible problems.
At the same time, Infrabel and Lineas will be responsible for planning and capacity allocation in the marshalling yard. To ensure that customers will have a clear view of the situation in Antwerp-North, Infrabel and the port of Antwerp-Bruges are working on a software solution that will allow users to check the status of their trains in real time. “Each step of the shunting process is recorded in the system and can be accessed at any time. This gives all customers a clear picture”, claim the partners. What remains is to see how this interesting experiment will develop.