ÖBB Rail Cargo Group and its Hungarian subsidiary, Rail Cargo Hungaria transported more than one million metric tons of grain from Ukraine last year, the multiple of the amount of the previous year. The company stands ready to continue helping Ukrainian people and expects the freight volume between the two countries to continue increasing this year.
Rail Cargo Hungaria (RCH), a member of Austria’s ÖBB Rail Cargo Group, saw its transport of goods from Ukraine skyrocket in 2022. Since the outbreak of the war, the company group has put the transport of food consignments from Ukraine into focus and increased the throughput of transported goods to 1 million metric tons, which places the company amongst the leading railway companies providing assistance. The group prioritizes the transportation of food shipments from Ukraine, mainly corn, sunflower seeds, wheat, soy, barley, and vegetable oil. Half of the incoming goods are iron ore, but the second largest items are grain and oilseeds. Two-thirds of the grain, which arrived in Hungary from Ukraine was transported to Hungarian customers, the remaining part was forwarded to grain depots in Italy and Austria.
“Together with its Hungarian subsidiaries, ÖBB Rail Cargo Group considers it a priority task to provide support to the Ukrainian people and economy with its services. We expect the freight volume between Hungary and Ukraine to continue to increase this year. We are ready to continue to fulfill the increasing transport demands expressed by the Ukrainian side,” said Imre Kovács, Member of the Board of Directors of Rail Cargo Austria
and Chairman of the Board of Directors of RCH.
The year 2022 was laden with challenges for the rail freight industry and RCH was no exception. The 300% increase in the price of traction energy significantly worsened the competitiveness of rail transport versus road transport. Rampant inflation led a rise in all types of operational costs. RCH is implementing strict measures in personnel management, work organization and vehicle management to counterbalance the difficult operating environment and has been successful in obtaining additional orders to compensate for lost traffic.
A story of success
RCH’s privatization took place in 2008 when its predecessor, MÁV Cargo Árufuvarozási Zrt. was acquired by ÖBB’s freight transport subsidiary, Rail Cargo Austria. The privatization of MÁV Cargo was a story of success: the Hungarian state received nearly HUF 103 billion in revenue, and Rail Cargo Austria expanded its services to the economies and industrial zones of Southeastern Europe by using the capabilities, assets and network of connections of the market-leading Hungarian rail freight company.
The new owner upgraded the company’s equipment, set up RCH’s independent traction capability, including its own locomotive fleet, and established the foundations for the automation of the goods handling processes. “RCH played an incremental role in turning the Group into Europe's second largest rail freight carrier in the past decade and a half, providing quality rail logistics services in 16 other countries on the continent in addition to its two domestic markets – Hungary and Austria,” noted Imre Kovács.
Expanding RCH’s traction capacity and increasing the proportion of its traction services are considered as a strategic interest for the company. With this objective in mind, RCH commissioned the subsidiary of the world's largest railway vehicle manufacturing company, the Chinese CRRC ZELC, to develop electric hybrid locomotives specifically optimized for the company’s needs. The equipment, which is currently being tested, represents a unique technology and RCH will be the first rail freight company in Europe to use this technology.
Using electric-hybrid locomotives allows RCH to operate in areas with no electric overhead lines or during times of repair and maintenance of such lines. Rail tracks used for industrial sidings typically do not have such power source, so, highly polluting diesel locomotives still have to be used on these lines.
Focus on sustainability
Environmental awareness is a core strategic value at RCH as well as at the whole company group. As freight transport providers, the company unburdens the environment from several hundred thousand tons of carbon dioxide. “We pay great attention to reducing environmental pollution and noise pollution to a minimum level,” stressed Imre Kovács. The vast majority of the company’s modern and energy-saving locomotives feed the electrical energy generated during braking back into the electrical network. RCH is investing more than HUF 1.5 billion to replace the traditional braking devices of its wagons with the so-called silent brakes that operate with composite brake pads required by the European Union. By the end of last year, the company equipped 75% of its fleet of 8,000 units with these devices.
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