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01/09/2011 | Channel:
TRANSWAGGON’s far-reaching network and modern railway wagon fleet makes it an ideal alternative to road freight across Europe
Established in 1965 in Zug Switzerland, for the last 46 years the private freight wagons owner TRANSWAGGON (TWA) has specialised in providing rail wagons across Europe for the transportation of all kinds of dry goods. The Group operates under the management of holding company Waggon Holding AG (shareholders 50 per cent founder family and 50 per cent VTG, Hamburg), through offices located across Europe including Germany, Sweden, Italy, France, Poland, Slovenia and Czechia.
As a result, TRANSWAGGON is able to offer services to a full scope of industries including paper and wood processing, consumer goods, and automotive, stretching from Scandinavia down to Italy and Turkey, and across from Spain and Portugal to Eastern European countries such as Poland and Romania. In fact, the UK is one of the few places the organisation doesn’t reach with direct rail traffic due to the differences in the gauge and load profile of the rail network.
Today, TRANSWAGGON’s initial fleet of 50 wagons has grown into approximately 12,000 modern wagons. These are primarily split into two core types – about 1800 flat open wagons, and around 10,200 covered wagons with hoods or sliding walls. Most of these wagons have also been specially equipped with practical devices to help facilitate the loading procedure and secure the load.
As 100 per cent owner of this fleet, TRANSWAGGON’s service offering is based
around the lease of its wagons to clients across Europe. This is achieved through two core business models – short-term hire based on a trip charter rate, and longer-term arrangements over a period of months or years. “At approximately 15 years old, our wagon fleet is very modern and ideal for responding to the needs of companies today,” states CEO Per-Anders Benthin.
“Instead of purely supplying our customers with a wagon, we aim to offer added value through a complete technical and logistic solution. With the company slogan ‘To Improve the Standard of Transport with outstanding Customer Service,’ we focus on selecting the right product to meet the specific requirements of each customer, and therefore are able to offer customised solutions where a client has the need to transport a more unusual load.”
This is one of the ways that TRANSWAGGON distinguishes itself from its largest competitor – road freight. “Typically our wagons are approximately twice as large in
EUR-Pallets or 2.5 times larger in net payload as their road equivalent, and this means that we are able to help customers optimise the flow in and out of their facilities by minimising the number of transportations required. We are also able to find solutions if clients have large volumes or heavy cargo, which could be more complicated to transport via road,” describes Per-Anders. “In order to meet the challenges of road freight, we see a need for the private wagon owners and incumbent railway undertaking (RU) companies to co-operate more closely.”
Many of TRANSWAGGON’s clients only look to transport loads in one direction, so the organisation works to optimise these flows by moving cargo to its destination and then reloading with a different client’s goods for the return trip. This approach also helps to minimise each client’s individual transport costs. The fleet is moved across Europe using TRANSWAGGON’s own customised and decentralised structure with traffic departments, which are linked to the rail services and co-operating agencies by modern IT data networks.
Furthermore, as Per-Anders explains, IT forms the basis of one of TRANSWAGGON’s most prominent additional services: “Through our in-house IT department we have developed the Wagon-Operating System (WOPS), which gives us the ability to track and trace our wagons across Europe. This not only helps improve our logistic and technical operations, but also enables customers to access this data through a customer information system (CIS). As well as providing information to their end clients regarding the wagon’s location, clients are able to make deductions regarding running times, payloads and how best to optimise each trip.” The organisation can also undertake complete rail services including freight and extra charges, and forwarding services such as transhipment.
TRANSWAGGON is also playing a contributory role in the new rail-based logistic system ‘Rail 11’ from ScandFibre Logistics AB (SFL), which is jointly owned by Smurfit Kappa AB, Mondi Dynäs AB, Billerud AB, Korsnäs AB, and Holmen AB. Launched at the end of 2010, Rail 11 provides direct system trains between the Swedish mills and the European terminals. As provider of the system’s wagons, TRANSWAGGON is working to ensure that the varied nature of these loads and locations is met through an optimised flexible solution.
Over the last five years in particular, TRANSWAGGON has seen a number of substantial changes in the market. One example of this has been the introduction of new regulations and demands throughout the EU, regarding environmental protection and safe operational conditions of the rail freight sector, which generates additional running and transaction costs for the wagon keepers. “In more recent years we have also seen a growing number of private RU companies, as opposed to just the traditional incumbent RU companies such as DB in Germany and Green Cargo in Sweden, which is a new challenge we have had to accommodate,” adds Per-Anders.
A younger fleet
“If you look at the total transport market in Europe, including road and sea freight, the railway forms approximately 15-20 per cent depending on national statistics, and within that the railway wagon sector has roughly 600,000 cars, including around 180,000 private wagons. Many of the non private freight wagon fleets consist of older wagons, which are not modern enough to meet the changing needs of the industry, so we see a real potential for TRANSWAGGON to continue to grow in the future as operators of a younger fleet.”
However, as operators in an increasingly progressive and fast moving market TRANSWAGGON is not content to sit still. Instead the organisation continually looks at methods to further optimise its operations, and to bring new innovative technology into the market. “We are always looking at how we can further develop our existing wagons,” comments Per-Anders. “The wagon is still the primary reason that clients choose to use TRANSWAGGON – it is not just because of our reputation, but because of the price per load is continuing to decrease for the customer.
“Therefore we work in-house and with our suppliers that manufacture the wagons, to find ways to minimise the lifetime costs, and therefore cost to clients, of our fleet. We work closely with our customers to understand what their needs are for the future and try to apply this information to our development plans. One of the biggest costs we face is the maintenance of the wagons to ensure that they meet operational and safety standards, so we continue to look at ways to optimise this process.”
Of course maintaining a sufficient, and modern, fleet through which to deliver the customised nature of TRANSWAGGON’s strategy, remains a primary driving force of the company. In this respect, the business acquired one of its competitors in 2006, bringing an additional few thousand new wagons into the fleet. Yet, as Per-Anders concludes, TRANSWAGGON is keen to supplement this further in order to facilitate the sustainable growth of the company: “We are now looking to place a significant investment into new wagons again, which in turn will enable us to target new markets that will bring added value to the business. We are also seeing activity within Eastern Europe, as companies look to locate their production facilities there, which gives us the opportunity to offer them the same transport solutions but over a longer distance.”