P&G triples rail freight provision in Europe
3/16/12 10:03 AM
In 2009, Procter & Gamble (P&G ) announced plans to increase its use of rail freight from 10% to 30% by 2015. And it has reached that target three years ahead of schedule.
The multinational shipper of household and personal goods launched its rail freight initative as part of a carbon emissions reduction scheme that involved increasing the number of intermodal movements across Europe.
P&G put the emphasis on the “massification” of shipments and finding return freight, the group’s product supply operations director for western Europe, Didier Delmotte, explained.
Rather than adopt a route-by-route approach, P&G developed scheduled rail-road swapbody services along all Europe’s main freight corridors, including UK-Belgium-Germany, Poland-Germany-Scandinavia, Belgium-Italy-Greece and France-Spain-Portugal.
It also charters full trains to the ports of Rotterdam and Zeebrugge, and in the UK serves Tesco’s distribution hubs directly through combined services.
P&G now ships 750 million tonne-km of goods a year by rail.
“We have more than five combi-trains operating each day, which provide rail freight services between the group’s warehouses across Europe,” Delmotte said.
“We use the trains of other shippers, filling up spare capacity with our shampoos, washing powders, nappies and pet food – and, if we have sufficient volume, charter dedicated full trains.”
The founding principles of P&G’s rail push were that it should not lead to an increase in transport costs, or diminish the quality of services in relation to road haulage.
“The massification of rail freight loads allows some savings in relation to road,” said Delmotte. “Contrary to the perceived view, rail can be more flexible.”
The effectiveness of the system relies on greater collaboration between rail networks and infrastructure between countries, which is the challenge today, he added.
“The continued growth in our use of rail freight distribution will depend on whether we can make progress in this area.”
P&G is also looking to forge greater co-operation with other shippers to optimise capacity, and trial runs have already taken place on the Belgium-Italy-Greece corridor.