PAN-EUROPEAN intermodal operator Intercontainer-Interfrigo is applying to the Belgian Ministry of Transport for registration as a licensed train operator. This would enable ICF to bid for paths under EU Directive 91/440, although it would probably lease locomotives and crews rather than acquire its own. ICF Chairman & Managing Director René Hellinghausen is keen to see whether managing its own paths will enable ICF ’to exert better control’ over the cost of rail movements.

At the end of December, ICF launched a pilot ’E-Business’ facility, enabling selected customers to access price data, book consignments electronically, and track their movements via the internet. The scheme is due to be expanded to more customers by the end of March. Together with a simplification of its general terms and conditions, the moves are part of ICF’s efforts to boost customer service. Following a 17% drop in traffic since 1998, cost-cutting measures include closing some offices and selling off 10% of the wagon fleet.

Unveiling the company’s provisional results for 1999 on December 14, Hellinghausen revealed that the ICF board had decided the previous month to invite ’new rail sector firms’ to take a stake in the business. ICF has long been owned by a consortium of European national railways, but he hoped that bringing in ’new partners’ will create ’a still wider range of services’, although ’sale of ICF products will in future increasingly involve partnerships.’