03 October 2011 12:01 [Source: ICIS news]
BERLIN (ICIS)--Europe’s rail systems need to improve more quickly to accommodate the growth of intermodal transport of chemicals, a representative of a transport company said on Monday.
Belgium-based Huktra’s Tim van Poucke said Europe’s chemical industry “is clearly moving into intermodal [rail and ship] transportation” but Europe’s rail systems are not keeping up with the change.
Railway terminals must be expanded and there is the possibility of a shortage of rail wagons in coming years if more infrastructure investments are not made, van Poucke said on the sidelines of the 45th annual European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) meeting.
The transport industry is working to persuade governments of the need to improve rail systems for freight traffic, van Poucke said, but governments tend to prioritise passenger rail improvements as those directly benefit voters.
An advantage of intermodal transport over road-only transport is that tanks on rail cars amount to “rolling storage” in which chemicals can more easily be stored and moved without the chore of loading them on and off trucks, he said.
Another advantage is companies can increase their payload per tank, as tanks moved via intermodal transport can carry up to 44 tonnes, while tanks on roads can carry only up to 40 tonnes, he added.
Also, intermodal transport can be seen as environmentally friendlier than road-only transport since trains and ships produce less carbon emissions overall than auto traffic, he said.
Huktra operates mainly in Spain, Italy, the Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) region and the UK, but also transports material to the Baltic region and Russia, van Poucke said.
The company has 850 tanks, and is growing by an average of 50 tanks a year, he added.
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