Rail transport of fresh produce reduces CO2 emissions by 70%

Colruyt Group will be shipping several containers of citrus fruit each week from Spain via Cool Rail, a new rail link for fresh produce between Valencia and the Port of Cologne. Trucks transport the containers to the distribution centre in Halle and return to Cologne with empty crates. The Cool Rail link is a sustainable alternative to road transport. Each container travels 83% fewer truck kilometres, which results in a 70% reduction in CO2. Colruyt Group sees this initiative as part of its broader pursuit of sustainable transport.


Full containers

Colruyt Group can optimise its return trips thanks to this new link. On the same site as the citrus fruit is unloaded, the containers are loaded with freshly washed EPS (Euro Pool System) folding crates for transport back to Cologne. “So the containers are always fully loaded for every journey,” says import project leader Wim Verghote. “In addition, the combined Valencia-Cologne-Halle journey only takes one more day than doing the entire journey by truck. So the freshness of the produce is guaranteed.”

Eventually, Cool Rail will also be able to transport fresh produce other than citrus fruit, such as broccoli and lettuce, from Valencia to Cologne for Colruyt Group. In November, two trains will run each week, with the aim of increasing this to five per week as more partners join the initiative.


More sustainable freight

For Colruyt Group, Cool Rail matches its pursuit of more sustainable international transport, including switching from road transport to rail and maritime transport. For goods imported from other European countries, more than half the journeys were carried out by train or boat. Last year, this has avoided 3,177,000 truck kilometres. “We are pleased that we can be part of this initiative,” continues Wim Verghote. “And we continue to look for new opportunities to reduce the impact of our freight transport further.”


Cross-border co-operation

Cool Rail is an international initiative with six partners from the retail, logistics and transport sectors in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Wim Verghote explains, “It’s remarkable that so many partners could get together to work on more sustainable transport. Hopefully, this initiative will inspire others to take action.”

Cool Rail was launched by the Dutch fruit and vegetable wholesaler, Bakker Barendrecht and the Euro Pool System logistics company, and is supported by the Port of Rotterdam. They worked with the Mercator Novus consultancy to develop Cool Rail and get it up and running. In addition to Colruyt Group, retailers Albert Heijn and Edeka (Germany) are also involved.

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