Intermodal in Poland: rail sets new milestones in moving containers in 2021

2022/04/28 at 6:42 PM

The Polish rail sector has set several new milestones in moving containers in 2021. A record number of boxes, around 1,8 million units, were transported across the country’s railway network. The 40-foot containers have gained more popularity among the Polish shippers. Moreover, some intermodal operators have strengthened their positions and downgraded the leaders of the previous year.

“2021 was a time of recovery for the entire freight market after the difficult situation caused by the pandemic. The intermodal transport market turned out to be the least susceptible to the limitations resulting from the pandemic. Carriers were able to adapt to the changing realities of the market. The development of the e-commerce market accelerated, which meant that importers, shippers and rail carriers had to adapt to the growing needs of consumers,” in such a way Ignacy Góra, President of Poland’s Office of Rail Transport (UTK), explained another record for the country’s rail sector in moving containers.

PKP Cargo’s intermodal terminal in Małaszewicze, source: PKP Cargo

In 2021 intermodal transport set several new milestones: 26.5 million tonnes of goods were carried in around 1.8 million intermodal units, mostly in boxes. In terms of the twenty-foot equivalent unit, the container traffic exceeded the level of 2.9 million TEU. This means an increase of 11.6 per cent for the moved weight, 6.9 per cent for the number of units and 9.3 per cent for TEU. At the same time, the share of intermodal transport in the total rail freight sector remained almost stable increasing from 10.7 per cent in 2020 to 10.9 per cent in 2021 (in 2019 it was 8.3 per cent).

New leaders

The list of the five biggest intermodal operators changed in 2021. While the first three champions of the previous year (PKP Cargo, PCC Intermodal, DB Cargo Polska) remained in their positions, the two others (Captrain Polska and Metrans) were overtaken by the new leaders (Ecco Rail and LTE Polska). As a result, the Top 5 list was as follows: PKP Cargo has a market share of 30.73 per cent in terms of weight, PCC Intermodal – 11.6 per cent, DB Cargo Polska – 10.62 per cent, Ecco Rail – 6.79 per cent and LTE Polska – 5.58 per cent.

Container traffic on Poland’s railway network in 2012-2021 (number of units and TEU), source: The Office of Rail Transport (UTK)

The ranking of the other companies with a share of more than 1 per cent looked like this: Eurasian Railway Carrier – 5.57 per cent, Metrans – 5.38 per cent, Captrain Polska – 5.24 per cent, CTL Logistics – 3.65 per cent, PKP LHS – 3.27 per cent, Eurotrans – 3.09 per cent, Lotos Kolej – 2.4 per cent, Alza Cargo – 1.87 per cent, Rail Cargo Carrier Poland – 1.44 per cent. Nine operators had a share of less than 1 per cent.

More 40-foot boxes

2021 was the second year in a row when the 40-foot containers dominated in Poland’s intermodal market. Compared to the 2020 results, their share became bigger: 56.7 per cent vs 53.2 per cent. The share of the 20-foot boxes decreased from 37.3 per cent in 2020 to 33.9 per cent in 2021. In terms of units, the ratio was as follows: more than 1 million compared to more than 603,000. The number of semi-trailers, trucks and swap bodies moved by rail remained low in Poland. In 2021 only 46,560 semi-trailers (or 2.6 per cent of the total intermodal traffic) were carried by rail, 31,512 swap bodies (or 1.8 per cent) and 111 trucks ( or 0.01 per cent).

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