A European First: Hump Yard In The Port Of Antwerp Operated Neutrally For The First Time

Moving more goods, faster and more economically by rail because it’s good for the economy and good for the environment. That’s the essence of this story. The neutral operation of the automatic hump yard at the Antwerp-North marshalling yard in the port is an important factor in achieving that goal.

Port Of Antwerp
Credit: Port of Antwerp-Bruges

Thanks to this rail infrastructure in Belgium’s largest and busiest freight station, trains can be assembled more efficiently. In order to create a level playing field for everyone, the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, Railport Antwerp, Lineas and Infrabel are working together to make this important facility available to all rail operators.

Faster and more efficient freight train composition

Thanks to the automatic shunting facility at the Antwerp-North marshalling yard in the Port of Antwerp-Bruges (PoAB), freight trains can be assembled up to six times faster. The importance of this logistics node, where “puzzling out” freight trains is part of daily business, should therefore not be underestimated.

Nevertheless, this facility has been underutilized for some time. For many railway undertakings, the investments are too high because they need shunting locomotives and skilled personnel.

A joint plan by Port of Antwerp-Bruges, Railport Antwerp, the freight carrier Lineas and the infrastructure manager Infrabel is now set to change that.

The centerpiece of this plan: neutral operation of the automatic shunting facility. It’s the first time in the history of Belgian railroads that something like this has happened. More than that, it’s even a European first!

Level playing field for all

Neutral operation of the rail facility began on April 1, 2023. This means that it’s available to all rail operators on equal terms. Lineas is committed to providing shunting services to all at market-based, transparent prices and conditions.

This activity will be followed up by Infrabel in collaboration with PoAB. Furthermore, the pricing for shunting services is controlled by the rail regulator.

Neutral management does not only lower the threshold, it also encourages cooperation between different companies in order to collect their goods.

This eliminates some unnecessary train movements – which is not only safer but also frees up more capacity in the very busy rail yards in the Antwerp port area.

So this joint plan checks all the boxes, making freight rail transport in the PoAB safer, faster, more efficient, economical and environmentally friendly.

Transparent software to track activities

In order to further streamline everything, Infrabel and PoAB are working on a high-performance software program. Customers can easily and quickly monitor their requests using this computer system, which is linked to the shunting installation.

Users can monitor the status of their freight train and/or wagons in real-time. For example, when it will be ready and where it is located. Each step of the shunting process is recorded in the system and can be accessed at any time. This gives all customers a clear picture.

The infrastructure manager, in collaboration with the neutral operator Lineas, will be ultimately responsible for planning, allocating capacity, and finding solutions in the event of double bookings.

Modal shift – Doubling of rail freight traffic

The neutral management of the shunting plant is an important part of the sustainable rail vision 2030. This joint vision of the future, developed by Infrabel, PoAB and Railport Antwerp aims to double the proportion of freight transported by rail in the port of Antwerp by 2030.

This so-called modal shift seeks to make rail more attractive so that more and more companies choose it. After all, those who transport their goods by rail, opt for fewer trucks and less road congestion. That’s a win-win situation for both the economy and the environment.

Reference: Port of Antwerp-Bruges

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