In mid-January, it was announced the start of construction of an intermodal terminal in Hungary, which is to become the largest combined rail terminal in Europe. The facility will be built using "green" technologies, and its annual capacity in the future should be 1 million TEU.
The terminal will be built in the city of Feneslitke, which is 18 km from the Ukrainian town Chop. A release published by the East-West Gate (EWG) (which will be the name of the terminal) says it will offer an alternative freight route from Asia to European countries - Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and Germany, which "will be faster than the current land and sea routes". And the general director of the enterprise Janos Talosi has already announced that he is counting on the return flow of goods, the export of European goods to Asian countries. He also sees a significant demand for transportation of semi-trailers from Ukraine in the direction of the EU countries by rail.
CFTS talked with Janos Talosi about what the new intermodal terminal will look like, what role Russian capital plays in its creation, how cargo traffic will be attracted and what can be Ukraine's role in this project.
At what stage is the terminal construction? What is the percentage of the work that has been already completed? Are you meeting the objectives to open the terminal in 2022?
Currently the construction works of the terminal’s substructure, as well as the construction of the normal railway connection are underway in the industrial park. Everything is proceeding as scheduled, the trial operation of the facility is scheduled to begin in January 2022, while its final handover is scheduled for the first quarter of 2022.
Could you please tell us more about the terminal itself - equipment, capacities, infrastructure?
Considering its capacity and technological equipment, EWG will be the largest and most modern intermodal railway terminal in Europe based on track change. The theoretical capacity of the terminal is 1 million TEU. With the current Hungarian railway infrastructure, the container and station wagon capacity is 300 thousand TEU. Nevertheless, the Hungarian government is planning significant infrastructure development on the Hungarian railway network, among others, plans for the V0 railway ring road bypassing Budapest are being prepared, which, if completed, will allow the full capacity of the terminal to be used.
The terminal will have 5 wide and 5 standard gauge, 850 meters long crane tracks. It can serve four 740-meter-long trains at the same time. It will be able to transfer containers from wide gauge wagons or trucks to normal gauge wagons or trucks and vice versa.
The ATEX and ADR certified cranes of the terminal, having a load capacity of 45 tons, can also transfer special materials such as gas container tanks and chemicals. It will be possible to transfer and store refrigerated containers (500 TEU), and the terminal will also be suitable for loading otherwise not crane-able, conventional road semi-trailers on rails. (We are negotiating with several suppliers, including NIKRASA, whose technology allows conventional trailers to be loaded on rails.) We will create a large number of parking spaces at the terminal, 5 terminal tractors will load the semi-trailers on the rails. There are two possible solutions for this: either we put only the semi-trailers on the train, or we put the whole assembly (truck) on.
After the operation starts, the terminal will provide a full range of logistics services, it will offer customers 15,000 square meters of leasable warehouse space with an internal free height of 12.5 meters. In the surrounding areas around the terminal, there is an opportunity to establish an additional 500,000 square meters of warehouses, assemblies or production plants on request.
The terminal will have its own 5G network, and the software that manages the logistics processes will also be able to communicate with customers online and track the status of containers on the road in real time.
This will be the first terminal working with the help of environmental technology (green technology). Which exact technology and technics will be used?
The energy supply of the facility will be provided by green technology, in line with the EU's rail and climate strategy. A high-performance solar park as well as a heat pump system will provide the energy supply, and only electric terminal tractors, e-cars and electric cranes will be used in the terminal area. The trains will be moved by diesel-hybrid locomotives.
There was information in media that the project is being financed by a private funding. Who is the investor? Taking into account that Ruslan Rahimkulov is the chairman of the board of directors, does it have something to do with the Russian capital? If so, which goals does the Russian side set regarding the terminal construction?
The investor East-West Intermodal Logistics Service Plc. was founded by Trusty Business Management Plc. on June 1 2018, with Greennovatív Ltd. acquiring a 50 percent stake in the company on January 24, 2019.
The EWG will be an independent service provider, receiving traffic organized by both European and Asian operators, thus, it has no commitment to Russian service providers either. The Chairman of the Board of Directors is a Hungarian citizen of Russian origin, whose local knowledge, professional relations in Russia, as well as his language skills can be an advantage in negotiations with Russian partners and clients.
The terminal's capacity is calculated for 1 million TEU per year. How much cargo traffic do you expect in the first few years of operation?
With the current railway infrastructure, container and station wagon capacity is 300 thousand TEU units. We expect that with the ever-increasing demands, the terminal will reach this capacity shortly after operation begins.
Aren't you afraid of the competition from other Hungarian and Slovak terminals? What is your competitive advantage?
The EWG will use state-of-the-art technology, provide unique services that current terminals cannot: special materials such as gas container tanks and chemicals can be transferred, and the terminal is suitable for loading conventional road semi-trailers on rails. In the industrial park next to the terminal area there is an opportunity to construct warehouses and even plants. The only advantage of the terminals already in operation is that they already have customers. The EWG, as it is currently being built, does not have any at this time, but we are negotiating with a number of operators, there is considerable interest - we will most likely be able to report on a specific agreement in the second half of this year.
There is a strong market demand for EWG’s technology and capacity from Japan through China and Kazakhstan to Western European countries. Although the terminals in Poland and Belarus have significant traffic between Europe and China/Asia, they have almost reached the peak of their capacities and they do not have the additional capacity to allow for expanding exports from Europe to Asia.
What percentage of cargo will get to the terminal in transit through Ukraine?
The majority of the terminal's traffic passes through Ukraine, as the railway line from Asia to Europe runs through Ukraine, crossing Hungary as well. This will also lead to a very significant increase in traffic and income for Ukraine.
Is Ukrainian railway infrastructure ready to meet the requirements of your terminal? If not, are you planning to invest in the development of terminal facilities in our country?
It is already able to meet the requirements. Our company is planning further investments in Ukraine following the handover of the Fényeslitke terminal.
Do you have any agreements already concerning the cargo traffic supply? If yes, with whom? What is the volume(amount)?
We are negotiating with the largest operators in the world, we will most likely be able to report on a specific agreement in the second half of this year. But taking the steady increase in traffic, the limitations of existing capacities, and the state of negotiations so far into consideration, there is great interest in EWG. In addition to the market demand already mentioned above, there is significant interest in our services from Ukraine, as Ukrainian logistics companies traditionally use semi-trailers.