Hupac: rough year with traffic and turnover slowdown
Hupac experienced a tough year in 2022 and saw its volumes and economic turnover drop. The intermodal company carried 1,104,000 road consignments in combined transport, seeing a decrease of 1,8 per cent compared with the previous year. On the other hand, the company’s total turnover decreased by 2,1 per cent, reaching 668,5 million Swiss francs.
The Swiss intermodal company’s net profit also followed a downward trajectory reaching 7,6 million Swiss Francs, corresponding to roughly 7,7 million euros. Indicatively, last year’s fiscal report (for 2021) saw the company’s net profit almost reaching 12 million euros. One of the segments that turned out positive for Hupac in 2022 was that of investments which absorbed 84,3 million Swiss francs and contributed to the development of several projects.
Rhine-Alpine corridor continues being an issue
The traffic slowdown was noticed in various corridors, with the Rhine-Alpine being the most prominent. Capacity bottlenecks in Germany combined with construction works on the corridor resulted in intense traffic slumps between April and June 2022 and Autumn 2022. Hupac explained that 20 per cent of the ordered trains could not run on the Rhine-Alpine corridor during peak times. Understandably, the company’s attempts for almost a year to stimulate the deployment of Rhine-Alpine alternatives targeted this situation which plagues companies active on the north-south axis.
The situation resulted in a 2,9 decrease in traffic along the north-south transport axis. The drop was also apparent in traffic from North Sea ports to the European hinterland, which decreased by 3 per cent, also affected by global supply chain disruptions. At the same time, transalpine traffic via Switzerland also dropped by 2,1 per cent. On a more positive note, transit traffic via Austria grew by 9,7 per cent, and the same applied to the corridors towards southeast and southwest Europe. Towards the east, volumes grew by 2,9 per cent, while southwest Europe traffic was crowned the champion of 2022 with a growth of 40,3 per cent.
A predicted slowdown
Hupac expected a slower year and knew the general global market slowdown would also affect its operations. Last year the company more or less predicted the factors that would impact it financially and were not far from reality. For the 2022 fiscal balance, the usual suspects are to blame again. Hans-Jorg Bertschi, chairman of Hupac’s board of directors, explained that “due to high energy costs, energy-intensive industries such as steel, chemicals and paper are particularly under pressure”. “The decline in these rail-related transports impacts the base load of combined transport excessively”, he added.
Additionally, the skyrocketing energy prices that the intermodal operator has to deal with, in combination with increased rail freight rates, dropping road freight rates and fundamental railway issues concerning the reliability of railways, result in traffic shifting to road, thus impacting the financial results of the company. Even now, too many trains are cancelled, stressed Bertschi, who highlighted that if the rail and combined transport quality does not improve, the reverse modal shift will magnify in the coming years.
Bertschi also underlined that to tackle some of the looming and pressing issues and improve the situation, Switzerland and Italy will lead an attempt to establish “effective operational management for international Alpine transit trains of combined transport on the Rhine-Alpine corridor under the management of the corridor’s railway infrastructures”. The two countries will try to incentivise such a development since they are the most heavily impacted by the traffic problems in the Rhine Valley. Finally, he stressed that the subsidisation of combined transport should continue at least until the end of the current economic crisis.
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