5 questions about Cool Rail

Spanish oranges normally come to Belgium using road transport. But this could be far more sustainable. That’s why Cool Rail started, a rail link between Valencia and Cologne. The first consignment of oranges arrived via the new rail link in November 2016. Which meant we saved a lot of road kilometres on the journey!

1. What is Cool Rail?

Cool Rail is a test project where fresh produce is transported via a new rail link from Valencia to Cologne. The train is fast, reliable and refrigerated, something that is, of course, essential for fresh produce. During the citrus season (November to March) two containers of citrus fruit per week come from Spain via Cool Rail instead of by truck. The containers are then transported by truck to our Halle distribution centre and are then loaded with empty crates for the return trip to Cologne.

The train is fast, reliable and refrigerated, something that is, of course, essential for fresh produce..

2. Why did Colruyt Group join the project?

The people responsible for logistics in our supply chain are constantly looking for ways to make our internal transport more sustainable. Switching from truck to train and boat plays an important role in this. “We’re pleased that we can take part in this initiative and look forward to reducing our freight transport impact further,” says Wim Verghote, project leader Import. The Cool Rail link can eventually also transport other fresh produce from Spain. The aim is to grow it to five containers per week as more partners join the initiative.

3. How many truck kilometres do we save?

Every container reduces truck kilometres by 83%, resulting in a 70% reduction in CO2 emissions. We also handle other goods flows sustainably. For goods from other European countries, over half of the journey is by train or boat. In 2016 for example, we avoided doing 3,169,000 truck kilometres on European roads, leading to a reduction in CO2 emissions of 7,363 tonnes. In addition, almost all our cargo from the Mediterranean comes to Belgium by train or boat. And half of the goods which we import via the Port of Antwerp are transported to Brussels port by barge. As a result there are 3,000 fewer trucks on the road between Antwerp and Brussels each year.

Almost all our cargo from the Mediterranean comes to Belgium by train or boat.

4. Are there other partners who believe in Cool Rail?

Cool Rail is an international initiative with various retail, logistics and transport partners from Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Wim explains, “It’s remarkable to find so many partners working together on more sustainable transport.” In addition to Colruyt Group, the retailers Albert Heijn and Plus (the Netherlands) and Edeka (Germany) are involved.

5. And can we still talk about sustainability for the train’s return journey to Spain?

By taking transport into its own hands, Colruyt Group can optimise the return journeys. We link two streams, the import of citrus fruit and the return of empty, clean crates. So the containers never carry just fresh air on their return journey (Halle-Cologne by truck and Cologne-Valencia by train). Previously these crates went via a different route. Furthermore, the combined Valencia-Cologne-Halle journey takes only one day longer than the whole journey by truck. This ensures that the freshness of the produce is guaranteed.


Met dit initiatief dragen we bij aan het realiseren van deze Duurzame Ontwikkelingsdoelstellingen van de Verenigde Naties.

Sustainable cities and communities Climate action