Strengthening intermodal transport and achieving environmental targets as industry picks up again
(Frankfurt/Main, 9 July 2020) In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kombiverkehr KG's limited partners held a virtual partners' meeting for the first time in the company's history, at which they adopted resolutions on the net results for the year. They also elected a new Administrative Board in a postal voting process. The company finished the financial year having transported a total of almost 900,000 truck consignments by rail, one consignment being equivalent to the capacity of a load train. The Frankfurtbased operator achieved a total transport tonnage of more than 20 million gross metric tons, with the average distance travelled by the transport units also climbing. The company's customers played an active role in protecting the climate by saving more than one million tons of carbon dioxide. The 129 full-time equivalent staff achieved sales of 411 million euros.Transport trends in 2019 affected by the economic situation in Europe and the automotive crisis
- 2019 financial year: consignment volumes affected by economic downturn in the chemical and automotive industries
- Up to double-digit growth in services to and from Sweden, Spain, Denmark and Hungary
- COVID-19: stability in the network, contactless transport processing, 15 per cent fall in transport, higher quality of service
- Climate protection: call for strengthening of intermodal transport
- New 52-foot container wagons with tank containers over 70 tons in weight tested successfully
- New Administrative Board elected
With some 170 shuttle trains every day, Kombiverkehr operates one of the largest and densest intermodal network in Europe for shifting transport from road to eco-friendly rail. In the 2019 financial year the company transported 884,168 truck consignments – equating to 1.77 million TEU (Twenty Foot Equivalent Units) – in its network on 247 days of operation, thus falling 5.7 per cent short in terms of volume compared with 2018. 180,405 truck consignments were shipped on routes in the national de.NETdirekt
+ network (-9.8 per cent). Cross-border unaccompanied transport in the eu.NETdirekt
+ network, which includes Germany's Baltic Sea ports, likewise suffered losses, although it recorded a less marked decline in volumes at -4.6 per cent and, with 703,763 consignments, increased its share of the total volume to nearly 80 per cent. The company sees the reasons for this trend being the knock-on effects of the unstable political and economic situation in Europe and the escalating trade disputes between the major economies, factors which the transport industry and hence Kombiverkehr were unable to escape. The automotive industry and its suppliers suffered heavy losses on national and international markets as a result of trade barriers, the diesel emissions scandal and talks on driving restrictions, particularly in the second half of the 2019 financial year. The chemical industry also experienced a sharp drop in production. Given that automotive and chemical shipments account for a high proportion of volumes in unaccompanied Combined Transport, this was not without consequences for Kombiverkehr. In addition, two of the busiest routes – traffic with the Iberian peninsula and with Italy via the Brenner corridor – were once again adversely affected by external factors. Rail freight services for and in transit through France were at times paralysed by the long-drawn-out national strike in that country. Without the weeks-long strike, even higher growth would have been possible in this important intermodal corridor. Heavy snow in the Alps caused avalanches, which led to the Brenner line being closed for days.
"As a Europe-wide operator, we can't isolate ourselves from the general trend," says Robert Breuhahn, Managing Director of Kombiverkehr KG. "Despite the downward trend in volumes, we have managed to keep our extensive intermodal network operating for the benefit of forwarders and carriers in a highly competitive market environment." A positive note was the upward trend in transport services to and from Sweden (+7.7 per cent). The fixed link route via Denmark and the Öresund bridge benefited particularly strongly from the increase in forwarding volumes. There were also positive trends in services to and from Spain (+7.7 per cent), Denmark (+11.2 per cent) and Hungary (+10.3 per cent).Stable network in the time of COVID-19
The global spread of coronavirus has put the population, all industries and companies in the logistics sector into a wholly unprecedented situation. The railway as a mode of transport has once again proven its positive contribution and demonstrated its systemic relevance in these strange times. During the transport process, human-to-human contact within train traction can be reduced to a minimum. With the shift to the 100% digital processing of transport documents, contactless agency procedures at the terminals have also been implemented in ultra-quick time to ensure the best possible protection for the health of both truck drivers and agency staff. Kombiverkehr itself has made emergency arrangements to ensure that the company continues to operate in the event of a quarantine situation at its headquarters or in terminal locations. The measures include the creation of temporary mobile workstations, external access to all the company's IT applications and the management of diversions in the event of terminal closures. Particularly when the epidemic was in its early stages in central Europe, Kombiverkehr KG along with its partner companies, forwarding customers and their truck drivers on the initial and final leg have kept the flow of goods moving between terminals, production facilities and shops across Germany and Europe. Since then almost the entire bandwidth of services has been available within the products offered on national and international transport routes. Lower volumes have led to the cancellation of individual train departures on many routes, but these have not had a major impact on transport for customers in those cases where there are multiple departures in the day from the same terminal, as booked consignments have simply been put on the next trained scheduled to depart the same day. With the great flexibility available in the network thanks to gateway services, which means that transport units can change trains at an intermediate terminal in the same way that passengers can, Kombiverkehr also offers a highly advantageous alternative option for shipments of its forwarding and logistics customers. "Seen in the round, our services are running relatively well given the difficult situation in logistics at the moment. Although we are adapting train departures to the notified daily volumes at short notice, we aren't leaving any customers in the lurch," Breuhahn affirms. After consignment volumes stabilised in the first quarter of 2020, the company lost some 15 per cent of its volumes across the network as a whole in the months of April and May due to the economic collapse. The exceptional situation at the borders between Germany and Poland and between Austria and Hungary led to a disproportionate increase in intermodal rail services with Poland and Hungary during that period. The greater amount of food and hygiene articles in particular that were being shipped enabled the operator to add trains to end-to-end Sweden services andled to volumes climbing by almost ten per cent in the first eight weeks of the coronavirus outbreak. Kombiverkehr recorded the sharpest drop in volumes in national transport (-20 per cent) and on routes with Spain (-20 per cent) and Austria (-30 per cent). On Kombiverkehr's main Germany – Italy axis via the Brenner Pass, the decline in services echoed that of traffic as a whole. Seen overall, the drop in services in the first five months of the current year due to the economic situation in Germany and Europe is in the single-digit percentage range.
"The sharp increase in freight capacity due to the corona crisis and the associated collapse in prices on the road will make it difficult for us to recover the lost volume in the second half of 2020 and very likely going into 2021 as well. Although the significant improvement in the quality of service on rail will enable us to persuade the odd new customer to shift some of their consignments from road to eco-friendly rail, it is already clear that Combined Transport can only be competitive if the quality of service and the prices we can offer users remain attractive in the long term. We will therefore do all that we can on behalf of our customers to work with the relevant railway operating companies to develop solutions that are financially viable and sustainable."Intermodal transport strengthened as industry picks up again
The coronavirus outbreak has demonstrated once and for all that rail freight transport, and Combined Transport in particular, is the stable and crisis-proof backbone of goods traffic in Germany and is accordingly seen as systemically relevant. "As things pick up again after the crisis, though, we must take the opportunity to remodel freight transport in Germany with an eye on sustainability – and strengthen the climate-friendly, ecologically responsible alternatives," emphasises fellow Managing Director Armin Riedl, drawing attention to the measures now required in order to develop the rail sector if the national and Europe-wide climate goals set by politicians are to be achieved. This includes a return to parity of opportunity between the different modes of transport. With road transport having been further subsidised – such as by the complete prolongation of the exemption from toll charges for gas-operated trucks – something now also needs to be done for Combined Transport. "We are therefore calling for an exemption from toll charges for the initial and final legs, subsidies for shipments by rail through a reduction in terminal fees and initial financing to encourage the shift to Combined Transport. Now is precisely the time to seize the opportunity to strengthen the safest and most environmentally friendly mode of ground transportation," Riedl says.New 52-foot container wagons with 72-ton tank containers tested successfully
Kombiverkehr KG took the decision a good three years ago to enter into the tank container segment of the market – these have a total weight of up to 75 metric tons and a length of 52 feet – with the aid of a modern, newly developed container carrier, the SGMNS. The company's existing fleet has been supplemented by 100 short, weight-optimised container wagons since the turn of the year. "Initial trials on loading the exceptionally long and heavy tank containers for end-to-end rail transport were recently held successfully on the line between Ludwigshafen and Hamm. This means we at Kombiverkehr can offer active assistance to the chemical industry and the forwarding companies heavily dependent on it by enabling them to run existing tank wagon transports successfully within our Germany-wide and European intermodal network," says Riedl, convinced of the future market opportunities.Limited partners elect new Administrative Board for three-year term
The partners of the company also appointed a new Administrative Board at the virtual partners' meeting. Kai Bode, Spedition Bode GmbH & Co. KG, Reinfeld, Christian Cornelius, Anhalt Logistics GmbH & Co. KG, Rehm-Flehde-Beargen, Mark Hazizowic, VTG Tanktainer GmbH, Hamburg, and Ulrich Maixner, HOYER GmbH Internationale Fachspedition, Mannheim, were elected to the Administrative Board for the first time. Long-standing members Carsten Hemme of Paneuropa Transport GmbH, Vechta, Hermann Lanfer of Lanfer Transporte GmbH & Co. KG, Meppen, and Werner Löblein of Löblein Transport GmbH, Schillingsfürst, complete the seven-strong forwarding side on the Administrative Board. As 50 per cent partner, DB Cargo AG is sending Dr. Sigrid Nikutta, DB Director Freight Transport and CEO of DB Cargo AG, and Pierre Timmermans, Director Sales, to the Administrative Board of Kombiverkehr KG. The Administrative Board thus consists of nine members as required by the Articles of Association. It will commence its work shortly, following the constitutive meeting in July and the election of a chair from the forwarding representatives. DB Cargo AG will continue to fill the vice-chair post.
In 2019 Kombiverkehr KG recorded a 7.7 per cent increase in consignment volumes on services to and from Sweden. The main feeder service is the train between Duisburg-Ruhrort Hafen DUSS and Lübeck-Skandinavienkai with ferry connection to Malmö, which has been running up to three times a day as scheduled since February 2020.
The press photo can be downloaded here
2019 key figures of Kombiverkehr KG at a glance:
Total truck consignments transported
|International truck consignments
|National truck consignments
|Total consignment volume in TEU (Twenty-Foot-Equivalent Unit)
|Savings in carbon dioxide emissions in metric tons compared with end-to-end road transport
|Transport volume in gross metric tons
|Average transport distance
|Goods volume in ton kilometres (tkm)
|Sales in EUR
The 2019 annual report offers an extensive presentation of the business results of
Kombiverkehr KG. It can be downloaded from www.kombiverkehr.de/en > Downloads > Company.