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Published: 24 January 2009      

Hupac reports slowing growth

Swiss-based combined transport operator Hupac ended the year 2008 with transport growth of 1.8%

The company says that it is responding to the economic downturn by streamlining its network and taking specific steps to enhance competitiveness.

In the past year, Hupac carried a total of 702,308 truck consignments by rail. Whilst double-digit growth rates were still achieved in the first quarter, growth stagnated in the course of the year as a result of the economic downturn. In the final quarter, the volume of traffic lay far below the level in the same period of the previous year.

“As a service provider to industry, the logistics sector is directly affected by the economic recession,” said Hans-Jörg Bertschi, chairman of the Board of Directors of Hupac Ltd. “The downturn in industrial production also brings a fall in demand for transport services. Combined transport and Hupac are no exception to this.”

In the Shuttle Net (unaccompanied combined transport) business area, however, Hupac recorded year-end growth of 2.5% compared to 2007. Transalpine traffic through Switzerland decreased by 2.3%, while the newly-included traffic through Austria grew by 6.3%. Non-transalpine combined transport achieved an increase of 14.1%. The RoLa business area, which is subject to severe infrastructural restrictions on the Gotthard line, logged a fall of 20.3%.

Despite the downturn in demand, Hupac says that it is maintaining its transport network and, where necessary, operating concepts are optimised and surplus capacity is reduced.

Many investments are being continued as planned, such as the construction of the Hupac terminal in Antwerp and the further expansion of the Busto Arsizio-Gallarate transshipment plant near Milan.

Hupac managing director Bernhard Kunz said: “We are sticking to our growth strategy. Where it makes sense, we are systematically expanding capacities.”

In mid-December, a new transport operating concept was implemented between Duisburg and South Eastern Europe with direct daily connections to Vienna, Enns, Krems and Budapest.

At the start of the year, a new connection between Taulov and Verona via Brenner was started with four train pairs per week, in collaboration with Cemat of Italy. The introduction of further connections to South Eastern and South Western Europe is planned for the coming months, whilst new transport solutions via Lötschberg for the semitrailer segment are in preparation on the North-South axis.

For 2009, Hupac anticipates a continuing economic crisis and consequently a further reduction in freight transport. Whether combined transport can maintain or even expand its position in this situation depends primarily on the conditions of transport policy.

“The price and service must be right, so that combined transport can hold its own against the road,” said Bertschi. “Price increases on the part of the railways – for example due to the planned electricity price increase of up to 23% by DB Energie – are absolutely fatal for rail freight transport when freight volumes are falling and there is a surplus of road transport capacity.

"The European network managers and transport policy makers must now send the right signals for the continued shift of freight transport from the roads to the railways.”

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