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French logistics provider, Gefco, has released further details about the development and management of its own European rail transport network. It is the first logistics operator in Europe to introduce such a system for controlling and optimising delivery times.
The company has signed an agreement with French rail network owner and manager Réseau Ferré de France (RFF) to join the networks and operating rights of three European rail operators: Euro Cargo Rail, Europorte France and Colas Rail. Gefco signed three-year agreements with the private operators last year for the movement of outbound volumes, equal to 40,000 wagons per year, when it decided not to renew its contract with French state-owned rail provider Fret SNCF (read more here).
Euro Cargo Rail, a subsidiary of DB Schenker Rail, is handling vehicles in Central and Eastern France, while Europorte France, a Eurotunnel subsidiary, is covering the Southern France region. Colas Rail, which is a subsidiary of the Bouygues Group, will cover the northern and western regions.
"Gefco has shifted from being a customer to an integrator and manager of all the rail flows," said Philippe Robert, operations manager at Gefco's Automotive Transport and Logistics division.
Antoine Redier, director of Automotive Transport and Logistics at Gefco, added that the company's objective was to reduce transport times while maintaining costs and developing a clear picture of any unforeseen events during shipping.
The company said that one of the keys to its success is managing reservations at the marshalling yards in Gevrey, near Dijon, and Achéres, near Paris. The arrangement means improved delivery times for the company, which cites the Sochaux-Calais connection as an example. Under the new set up it now takes an average time of 26 hours to transport vehicles along the route, five days faster than previously.
"This transport plan will guarantee the continued use of railways for automotive transport," said Redier, notable in that Gefco already uses rail transport for 25% of its automotive business compared to the European average of 17%. "Single wagon load shipping, a key element of the programme, supports the group's sustainable development objectives and the use of several rail operators enhances flexibility and reliability," continued Redier.
Gefco said it has developed specific tools to combine the management of volumes and the tracking of vehicles with the reservation of train paths and synchronisation of operator services.
"Flows are planned several months in advance, as routes have to be booked with RFF nine months before they are used," said the company in a statement.
Elucidating on the management requirements, Gefco said it involved knowing in real time the quantity and destination of vehicles to be shipped from each plant and controlling the train departure and arrival schedules. This enables the coordination of the railways' operations and achieves optimal load factors to make the system efficient and profitable.
Gefco has developed a software program called GERI (Gefco Rail Interface) to manage the project, which uses loading documents to monitor the composition of trains as well as tracking the wagons.