Medway foto-comboio-china-006-fev2021

EUROPE: Private freight operator Medway plans to launch a direct daily intermodal train branded Vasco de Gama from terminals in Portugal to Stuttgart in Germany in the fourth quarter of this year.

Initially the train carrying general freight shipments will run via the break of gauge at Irún on the Franco-Spanish border, from where destinations in those countries could also be served. It is expected to carry 28 swap bodies with an end to end journey time of around 72 h.

Previous attempts to launch freight services between Portugal and Germany have been stymied because of problems acquiring paths through France; automotive company Volkswagen had in recent years planned to use rail to deliver components to assembly plants in Portugal. However, Medway believes that improvements in the pan-European path allocation process should increase the chance of success for this latest initiative.

At the Portuguese end, two potential terminals have been identified, at Guarda on the Beira Alta line or Pampilhosa on the main north-south route. These would serve as railheads for general cargo shipments from the rest of the country. Access for international trains to the rest of Europe is expected to improve later this year when the Covilhã – Guarda line reopens, having been effectively closed for the past 12 years pending the completion of renewal works.

A subsidiary of shipping group MSC, Medway emerged in 2016 when it acquired the state railway’s former freight operation CP Carga. To date, it has expanded into Spain and it now runs domestic services in both countries as well as a number of cross-border flows.

Medway is making significant investment in its intermodal business, with a new €55m terminal at Lousado near Famalicão covering 200 000 m2 due to open by the end of 2021. This is intended to tap into the growth of container traffic through the nearby ports of Sines and Leixões; it will have storage capacity for 10 000 TEU and six roads able to handle 750 m long trains, making it the largest such facility on the Iberian peninsula, according to the operator.