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Intermodal Freight Stakeholders Gather to Discuss Disruption to Rail Cargo and Possible Solutions

Aftershocks from Rastatt Rail Tunnel Collapse Lingers OnShipping News Feature GERMANY – SWITZERLAND – EUROPE – The disastrous rail tunnel collapse at Rastatt in August[1] prompted Swiss based intermodal operator Hupac[2] to organise a forum this month, ‘Rastatt: never again’, which was attended by many senior stakeholders from the European rail freight industry and led by some heavyweight speakers[3], including the CEO of DB Netz[4], the company many present blamed for the appalling ongoing disruption to cargo following the accident.

So far the only thing which has mitigated the collapse was the fact nobody was injured, but those present at the forum, held on December 6 in Dusseldorf’s Hyatt Regency Hotel, were in the mood to tell Frank Sennhenn from DB Netz, the boss of the company responsible for all German rail infrastructure, exactly what they thought of the lack of preparation for such an incident, and to ask what was he going to do to ensure such a situation never arose again. Collectively many of those affected are looking to the Deutsche Bahn subsidiary to stump up for the costs[5] and delays they and their customers have incurred due to the lack of preparation for such an occasion. Wim Blomme of P&O Ferrymasters[6] asked:

“Where are the contingency plans for rail, where is the agility required to support the supply chain at all times? When incidents happen, the persons responsible should not shy away from assuming their responsibility so that confidence can be restored.” Rastatt caused 7 weeks of unprecedented delays for intermodal traffic across Germany, Switzerland, Italy and the Benelux countries and, in response, the DB Netz executive acknowledged the problems both economic and organisational which it had engendered.

He promised that teams of national incident managers would be trained and established to deal with any future problems, with plans in place for diversions and revised track allocations with suitable alternative equipment such as spare diesel locomotives available. One of the biggest problems during the affected period was that of the paucity of staff able to deal with a sudden influx of information in foreign languages, and this was another area Sennhenn said would be looked at with the possibility of interpreters being available when required. He commented:

“The whole sector has to double its efforts to make rail freight more flexible in daily business and especially during incidents. Rastatt is an opportunity, and we invite all stakeholders to join us on this journey.” One of the lead speakers, Rudolf Buchl, head of the infrastructure management arm of SBB Swiss Railways[7], said crisis management plans were already in place, with agreements on the main problems such as sudden capacity requirements, timetable reconstructions and supervision of such engineering and construction projects already implemented, following his company’s discussions with DB Netz and earlier similar agreements with the Rhine-Alpine corridor infrastructure managers.

He continued: “We are performing the Rastatt follow-up together with DB Netz as a tangible example of close international cooperation. We are happy to improve international crisis management together with our neighbours on the basis of our experience.

And as a multilingual country we have some experience in effective language management, with bilingual operations in the new Gotthard base tunnel.” Peter Fuglistaler, Director of the Swiss Federal Office of Transport[8], emphasised the necessity of pan European attitude to rail freight. He observed that disruptions such as Rastatt cut across the national boundaries of the traditional infrastructures and require truly international coordination.

This he felt was the task for government Transport Ministers who should concentrate on harmonising international technical standards and interoperability.

The Hupac group was particularly suited to holding this event as it has seventeen subsidiary companies operating across Switzerland, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium as well as Poland, Russia and China.

Group CEO Bernhard Kunz, said he would be looking to offer feedback from this meeting at his operation’s General Assembly in June 2018.

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References

  1. ^ Rastatt in August (www.handyshippingguide.com)
  2. ^ Hupac (www.hupac.ch)
  3. ^ heavyweight speakers (www.hupac.ch)
  4. ^ DB Netz (fahrweg.dbnetze.com)
  5. ^ stump up for the costs (www.handyshippingguide.com)
  6. ^ P&O Ferrymasters (www.poferrymasters.com)
  7. ^ SBB Swiss Railways (www.sbb.ch)
  8. ^ Swiss Federal Office of Transport (www.bav.admin.ch)

Brexit News Cheers Road Haulage Freight and Forwarding Interests

Associations Greet Government ProgressShipping News Feature UK – EUROPE – It is safe to say that, when the subject of Brexit is mentioned in the company of anyone linked to the supply chain, there is often a note of cynicism. From shipping companies to road haulage operatives there is often an inherent mistrust of the competence of the political class to manage what is undoubtedly one of the most complex exercises undertaken in the world of modern commerce. With the latest developments however three of the biggest lobby groups representing the British freight industry are expressing cautious optimism that things are finally getting on track for an organised extrication from the EU and Robert Keen, Director General of the British International Freight Association (BIFA[1]), which represents the majority of UK forwarding agents, commented:

“Our members, which form the bulk [of the] UK logistics sector will be breathing a sigh of relief that the UK and European Commission have reached agreement on phase 1 issues.

There is still plenty of hard work to do, but this does appear to mean that discussions on transitional arrangements and our future trading relationship with the EU can now commence. The focus for the UK Government must now be on agreeing a transition deal, and explaining to business and the country as a whole what kind of trading relationship it is looking for in the long-term. “The most pressing concern for our members has been the matter of the future trading relationship between the UK and the EU, especially Customs procedures post-Brexit.

The Phase 2 negotiations need to remove the uncertainty that is currently faced by a large number of traders over the matter of future Customs declarations once the UK leaves the European Union (EU). “We are actively involved with HMRC and have always recommended that there needs to be wider engagement with all who are engaged in processing international trade to give them as much time as possible to prepare and to allay fears. We will be continuing with our lobbying efforts to make sure that our members and the trading companies that they serve get better and more regular information about the likely Customs implications of Brexit.

“As the details of any trade deal emerge, BIFA will continue to work closely with HMRC to help ensure a successful delivery of systems that will meet the needs of our members who, at the end of the day, are responsible for facilitating a considerable proportion of the UK’s visible trade.” British hauliers particularly welcomed the news that will definitely be no ‘hard border’ between the Republic and Northern Ireland. Visions of long interminable queues of trucks awaiting customs clearance haunted any with a vested interest but, despite Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar commenting his government did not want to see a border in the Irish Sea, Road Haulage Association (RHA[2]) chief executive Richard Burnett, observed:

“We hope that the successful outcome of these particular border issues can be reflected in negotiations over cross-border traffic between other EU member states. However, our big concern is that we can strike a deal for free-flowing lorry traffic across the Channel.” The news that the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said ‘sufficient progress’ has been made in the Brexit negotiations to move on to phase 2 (transition & trade) was encouraging, says the Freight Transport Association (FTA[3]).

But, the organisation adds, there is an urgent need to now translate this good political will into action and to reach a swift agreement on a transitional deal providing clarity and certainty to businesses. This is needed to ensure that business can continue to operate efficiently and trade to flow freely to and from the UK. Pauline Bastidon, Head of European Policy, made the FTA position clear saying:

“Today’s announcement is the first block in the wall but there is still much work to be done and clarification required on the key issues affecting trade and logistics and on the timelines that businesses will have to work to. As a first step, today’s recommendation by the European Commission needs to be validated by EU-27 leaders at the December European Council next week. Negotiators will then be able to agree the details of a transitional agreement, which is now an urgent priority to give business the assurance needed to continue to operate efficiently.

“There are still many complex issues that will need to be solved when discussions on the future relationship start, to ensure that goods can continue to flow across borders, not least for transport, trade and customs. The urgency is now to provide clarity to businesses, and that’s why a transition & implementation phase is so crucial. Businesses should only have to adapt to one set of changes and should be given enough time to do so, once new arrangements and rules become clear.

Two years is a very short time: it is imperative that business is given sufficient notice to adopt new practices and systems, and ensure that they are correctly staffed to keep Britain trading.”

Photo: Those of us with long memories will shy away of the reintroduction of Customs posts strung all along the Irish border.

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References

  1. ^ BIFA (www.bifa.org)
  2. ^ RHA (www.rha.uk.net)
  3. ^ FTA (www.fta.co.uk)

Brexit News Cheers Road Haulage Freight and Forwarding Interests

Associations Greet Government ProgressShipping News Feature UK – EUROPE – It is safe to say that, when the subject of Brexit is mentioned in the company of anyone linked to the supply chain, there is often a note of cynicism. From shipping companies to road haulage operatives there is often an inherent mistrust of the competence of the political class to manage what is undoubtedly one of the most complex exercises undertaken in the world of modern commerce. With the latest developments however three of the biggest lobby groups representing the British freight industry are expressing cautious optimism that things are finally getting on track for an organised extrication from the EU and Robert Keen, Director General of the British International Freight Association (BIFA[1]), which represents the majority of UK forwarding agents, commented:

“Our members, which form the bulk [of the] UK logistics sector will be breathing a sigh of relief that the UK and European Commission have reached agreement on phase 1 issues.

There is still plenty of hard work to do, but this does appear to mean that discussions on transitional arrangements and our future trading relationship with the EU can now commence. The focus for the UK Government must now be on agreeing a transition deal, and explaining to business and the country as a whole what kind of trading relationship it is looking for in the long-term. “The most pressing concern for our members has been the matter of the future trading relationship between the UK and the EU, especially Customs procedures post-Brexit.

The Phase 2 negotiations need to remove the uncertainty that is currently faced by a large number of traders over the matter of future Customs declarations once the UK leaves the European Union (EU). “We are actively involved with HMRC and have always recommended that there needs to be wider engagement with all who are engaged in processing international trade to give them as much time as possible to prepare and to allay fears. We will be continuing with our lobbying efforts to make sure that our members and the trading companies that they serve get better and more regular information about the likely Customs implications of Brexit.

“As the details of any trade deal emerge, BIFA will continue to work closely with HMRC to help ensure a successful delivery of systems that will meet the needs of our members who, at the end of the day, are responsible for facilitating a considerable proportion of the UK’s visible trade.” British hauliers particularly welcomed the news that will definitely be no ‘hard border’ between the Republic and Northern Ireland. Visions of long interminable queues of trucks awaiting customs clearance haunted any with a vested interest but, despite Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar commenting his government did not want to see a border in the Irish Sea, Road Haulage Association (RHA[2]) chief executive Richard Burnett, observed:

“We hope that the successful outcome of these particular border issues can be reflected in negotiations over cross-border traffic between other EU member states. However, our big concern is that we can strike a deal for free-flowing lorry traffic across the Channel.” The news that the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said ‘sufficient progress’ has been made in the Brexit negotiations to move on to phase 2 (transition & trade) was encouraging, says the Freight Transport Association (FTA[3]).

But, the organisation adds, there is an urgent need to now translate this good political will into action and to reach a swift agreement on a transitional deal providing clarity and certainty to businesses. This is needed to ensure that business can continue to operate efficiently and trade to flow freely to and from the UK. Pauline Bastidon, Head of European Policy, made the FTA position clear saying:

“Today’s announcement is the first block in the wall but there is still much work to be done and clarification required on the key issues affecting trade and logistics and on the timelines that businesses will have to work to. As a first step, today’s recommendation by the European Commission needs to be validated by EU-27 leaders at the December European Council next week. Negotiators will then be able to agree the details of a transitional agreement, which is now an urgent priority to give business the assurance needed to continue to operate efficiently.

“There are still many complex issues that will need to be solved when discussions on the future relationship start, to ensure that goods can continue to flow across borders, not least for transport, trade and customs. The urgency is now to provide clarity to businesses, and that’s why a transition & implementation phase is so crucial. Businesses should only have to adapt to one set of changes and should be given enough time to do so, once new arrangements and rules become clear.

Two years is a very short time: it is imperative that business is given sufficient notice to adopt new practices and systems, and ensure that they are correctly staffed to keep Britain trading.”

Photo: Those of us with long memories will shy away of the reintroduction of Customs posts strung all along the Irish border.

Bookmark and Share

References

  1. ^ BIFA (www.bifa.org)
  2. ^ RHA (www.rha.uk.net)
  3. ^ FTA (www.fta.co.uk)

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