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Italy-China rail services

Mercitalia Rail (ex FS Cargo) has made an agreement with United Transportation & Logistics Company, the Eurasian railfreight alliance of Russian, Kazakh and Belarussian Railways, to operate train services between Western Europe, principally between Italy and China, via Brest and Dostyk/Altynokol

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"We are delighted to have signed the MoU with UTLC as it allows us to enter the Eurasian rail freight market, which has been growing strongly," said Gian Paolo Potelli, CEO of Mercitalia. "The project fits perfectly in to 2017-26 industrial plan of [parent] Italian Railways group."


Alexey Grom, President of UTLC, majority-owned by RzD Russian Railways, said: Together with Mercitalia Rail we can offer not only train dispatches between China and Europe, but also a full range of logistic solutions.


Under the agreement, Mercitalia Rail will operate the trains from (mostly) Italy as far as the Brest gauge break, where UTLC will take over as far as the Dostyk gauge break at the Chinese border, for onward transportation by Chinese railway companies.

TX Logitisk is the first customer for the Bombardier TRAXX MS3
TX Logitisk is the first customer for the Bombardier TRAXX MS3
A UTLC block train for Chinese NVOCC ZIH
A UTLC block train for Chinese NVOCC ZIH

FS Italiane’s 2017-26 plan includes a budget of €1.5B for Mercitalia Rail, of which €1.1B for rolling stock, €300M for terminals and logistics and €100M for IT/digitalisation, with annual revenue forecast to reach €2.1B in 2026 compared to around €1B in 2016. Following the launch of Polo Mercitalia and the spin-off of Mercitalia Rail from FS Cargo last year, contracts for 125 new electric locos (including 25 options), five formation locos and more than 250 latest generation wagons have been awarded.


Revenues increased last year by 9.3% to €1.042B compared to €953M in 2016, while losses were cut from €77M to €38M, thanks to a €40M profit in H2 2917.


The new locos include 40 Bombardier TRAXX MS3 multicurrent locos ordered by Mercitalia Rail’s strategic German affiliate, TX Logistik, and they will start arriving in 2019, supported by a 15-year maintenance contract. TX Logistik is the first customer for this new loco, which can operate under all four of the main European catenaries. The locos will save an estimated €12M a year for Italian cross-border freight trains, as they will no longer have to use SBB or BLS.


One of the first fruits of Polo Mercitalia is Mercitalia Fast, a fast railfreight service for time-sensitive cargo that links Caserta (Marcianise) with Bologna Interporto in 3h 20m. The ETR 500 train consists of 12 wagons and caters for roll containers up to 1 m3 and 220 kg. The first clients include Leroy Merling, NaturaSì, Admenta Farmacologica and Logista. It is hoped to extend the service to a number of other routes, said Marco Gosso, Managing director of Mercitalia Logistics, adding that the service would be tailored to the requirements of shippers or logistics companies that use it.

GTS Rail 's new workshop
GTS Rail 's new workshop

Another Italian rail freight and rail logistics company, GTS Rail, recently placed an order worth €25M with Bombardier for five locos to add to its fleet of 10 Bombardier TRAXX E483 locos, as it expands its service offer.


The privately-owned Bari-based GTS Group saw its turnover increase to €87M last year, of which 70% generated outside Italy, and is budgeting for turnover to reach €101M this year and €107M in 2019.


By 2020, the company is aiming for 2.6M train kms, 4000 train dispatches, a fleet of 180 cars, 15 locos, 2,200 45ft HC container type swap bodies and six reach stackers. Last year it shipped 95,000 UTI (95,000 x 2.25 TEU) carrying 1.6 Mt of cargo. It dispatched 3,900 trains, of which 1,898 within Italy and 2,002 transalpine.


The company has 850 customers along the Adriatic axis covering Turkey, Albania, Greece, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and (via Zeebrugge) the UK and Ireland.


Last year the company opened its own workshop in Bari, an investment of €4.5M, and was awarded Elite certification by the Italian Stock Exchange.

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