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Keeping the customer in the lead

Posted: 29 January 2008 | | No comments yet

Within SNCB, B-Cargo is the division that is responsible for commercialising rail freight transport. In cooperation with the other companies of the SNCB Group, we provide customers with global logistics solutions that are at once competitive and attractive. With 2,160 miles (3,454km) of track, Belgium’s rail infrastructure is among the highest-density networks in the world.

Within SNCB, B-Cargo is the division that is responsible for commercialising rail freight transport. In cooperation with the other companies of the SNCB Group, we provide customers with global logistics solutions that are at once competitive and attractive. With 2,160 miles (3,454km) of track, Belgium’s rail infrastructure is among the highest-density networks in the world.

Within SNCB, B-Cargo is the division that is responsible for commercialising rail freight transport. In cooperation with the other companies of the SNCB Group, we provide customers with global logistics solutions that are at once competitive and attractive. With 2,160 miles (3,454km) of track, Belgium’s rail infrastructure is among the highest-density networks in the world.

B-Cargo follows a three-pronged approach in the work that it carries out.

  • Exploring its assets as a regional operator
    Particular attention is paid to Belgium and its immediate vicinity. By controlling our means of production (wagons, traction, planning) we are able to guarantee better quality and to reduce costs. B-Cargo is involved in all the links in the transport chain, offering its specific skills for management, shunting, specific logistical services, sales and marketing in Belgium.
  • Asserting itself as the manager of quality international corridors
    On three freight corridors, we manage 80% of the international traffic flows. In cooperation with other railway undertakings, we ensure these corridors provide on-time, fast and frequent deliveries. In 2005, B-Cargo launched the SIBELIT project in collaboration with the SNCF and the CFL. This project is designed to optimise train services on the north-south route from Belgium-Luxembourg-France-Switzerland. The result has been a 25% increase in productivity. The importance of this project cannot be underestimated. 85% of trains bound for France, Switzerland, Italy and Spain actually use this corridor. B-Cargo is working on a similar project on the Belgium-Ruhr route for destinations in Germany and Eastern Europe.
  • Serving specific segments
    The steel and combined transport segments are the prime areas in which B-Cargo can offer customers clear added value. Optimal integration in the industrial areas and a fleet of specialist wagons are available to the steel industry. Container transport remains a booming market, especially given the opening of the Deurganckdok in the port of Antwerp and the major development of Zeebrugge.

We are able to offer manifold transport solutions based on the total logistics chain, an optimum planning, an important park of modern wagons and a comprehensive range of services.

We are furthermore very well represented in Belgian ports and run, in close collaboration with Inter Ferry Boats, a network of terminals throughout the country.

In these terminals, freight is gathered up and separated and depending on the nature of the goods and the final destination, they are transferred to (international) freight trains, lorries or inland craft. We assume an increasingly important role for these hubs, in order to meet the growing demand for reliable transport. Thanks to intermodality, (a combination of various means of transport), we are able to take freight quickly, safely and punctually to the right destination.

In the freight sector, real-time traffic follow-up is a reality. With the introduction of quality procedures, we can offer freight tracking and traceability. This means that clients are able to check for themselves the location of their freight.

Keeping the customer in the lead

In 2007, B-Cargo went all out to provide an even more efficient service and to make sure the wheels of its organisation were well oiled.

The Rail Cargo Centres (RCC) give customers a central and regional point of contact for the conduct of their transport. RCC’s can be found in Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi, Liège and Brussels, representing the major freight stations.

The Cargo Operating Centre (COC) also reached its cruising speed. It is the central real-time traffic management body. Due to the COC, the number of trains running more than one hour late has considerably decreased. Local COC’s will be installed to further optimise this service.

B-Cargo is able to provide integrated logistical solutions and therefore we also make substantial investments in rolling stock, both wagons and locomotives. To this end we own a fleet of 10,500 freight carriages and 450 locomotives. A number of the locomotives will be able to be used in The Netherlands and Germany, allowing B-Cargo to offer a full service on these routes. The project for the order of heavy diesel locomotives that are able to run on various networks provides a good confirmation of B-Cargo’s international ambitions. Demands for safety certificates in order to be able to run in The Netherlands, France and Germany are part of this context. Some of these certificates have already been obtained.

In 2006, (the numbers for 2007 are not yet available) B-Cargo recorded a turnover of €385.4 million and carried, notwithstanding the opening up to competition, 59.4 million tonnes of goods.

Setting in place an efficient transport system

Under the name Quowadis, (Quality Operations for Wagon Distribution) B-Cargo has embarked upon a complete overhaul of its approach to transport. Lower costs for greater efficiency would be one way of summing up the essence of the plan. In concrete terms, QuoWadis means:

  • Offering a range of pre-programmed routes and more standardised basic services
  • Rationalising service circuits between the customer and the marshalling yards
  • Developing a network of domestic shuttle trains between the main freight stations
  • Offering customers better reliability and higher speed on the international routes thanks to pre-programmed shuttle services provided with multifunctional stock
  • Planning free routes intended for last-minute traffic

Preparing for the future

The first competitors have made their appearance on the international and domestic freight traffic stage. How will B-Cargo react to this?

B-Cargo wants to continue the collaboration with the historical operators in the neighbouring countries, which are also competitors. In contrast to the low-cost operators, they are in a position to offer a complete service, both for traffic by whole trains and for individual wagons. By means of collaboration, we can optimise the service offered to our customers.

During the course of 2007, customers have been able to enjoy improved on-line availability of real-time data on their freight. They have also been able to request more accurate information on the loading and unloading times for their wagons. Charging of wagon standstill/parking costs is simplified and allows for quicker valuation and billing. The consignment note has also been revamped, in line with the European rules, and customers can now clearly see whether an operator is working alone or in collaboration with other operators.

B-Cargo: a partner in the solution to mobility issues

Freight traffic represents huge challenges for society, whereby B-Cargo is able to provide solutions. Anticipated container growth in the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge can only be processed if the containers are taken out of the port using various transport methods, e.g. rail transport.

We are all paying the price for our mobility: air pollution and use of space and energy are the unpleasant result for all types of transport. In each of these respects, trains register better figures than all other means of transport. In practical terms, SNCB always opts for a sustainable approach.

Safety and comfort are guaranteed

SNCB workshops, where engines and wagons are serviced, have a great reputation internationally. A lot of specialists work on our safety on a daily basis. The huge wealth of high-tech knowledge and dedication has resulted in third parties such as suppliers or clients using these workshops.

About the author

Albert Counet

Mr. Albert Counet, Belgian graduated from HEC Liège and Master of Public Management from Solvay Business School ULB Brussels. Mr. Counet has 38 years experience in transports and logistics. From 1968 to 1989, Mr. Counet worked for the Belgian Railways in various positions from Product Manager to Head of the Sales Department. Then, from 1990 to 2000 he worked for the Brambles Group in several European countries as senior executive, always with strong involvement in transport and logistics. From November 2000, Mr. Counet has been the General Manager of B-Cargo.

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