Interview: Hamburg is Rail Port of Europe-Metrans Chairman

Peter Kiss, Chairman of the Executive Board of Metrans Group, on growth plans, investments and developments in hinterland services.

HHLA has been sole owner of the Metrans Group since April. What are the consequences for the further development of the company?

Kiss: Metrans and HHLA have been allied in successful cooperation ever since 1995. We shall jointly pursue this, aiming to consolidate and extend Metrans’s strong position in competition between European rail operating companies. We shall strive to remain a reliable partner for our customers. Metrans is a success story. I am happy to tackle the job of carrying that further.

What investments are planned for the next few years?

Kiss: HHLA is planning to invest a total of one billion euros in the next five years, of which 350 million euros will flow into inter-modal activities. For us, that means creating additional terminal facilities, acquiring new locomotives, and further modernising our railcar fleet. The digital revolution is increasingly challenging our expertise. We shall make the required investments in our staff. For Metrans to grown further, we need powerful, competent teams.

What is the Port of Hamburg’s importance for Metrans as a Czech company?

Kiss: Hamburg is the rail port in Europe. This is one essential for any strong growth in European hinterland services. At the beginning of the 1990s, HHLA despatched the first container block train to Warsaw, Metrans its first train from Prague to Hamburg in 1991. The city was the first European destination for a train along the Silk Road in Europe. You could say that the city is our second home.

Going forward, the port will also remain the top rail hub for hinterland services through Central, Eastern and SE Europe. We also call other ports, but nowhere except in Hamburg do we have so many customers, with the largest number of connections. Both for freight handling and the large number of overseas services, the Port of Hamburg offers our customers optimal conditions. With our successful team on the spot, we shall therefore continue to go for this base.

Track access charges are being reduced in Germany. The Netherlands also want to do so. From the Metrans angle, will this lead to lower freight rates for shippers or can it be assumed that only a few operators will be passing on this price advantage to their customers? What is Metrans planning?

Kiss: The reduction in track access charges was already announced last year. So far, little has happened. Basically, rail sorely needs relief on rates to face up better in intermodal competition to diesel-powered trucks. That also applies because other cost factors have recently turned negative. In addition, lower track access charges will only pay off provided that sufficient infrastructure capacities are available.
What use are lower charges if transport lasts longer, with even trains being stuck in traffic jams?

You have been Chairman of Metrans Group’s Executive Board since 1 April. Which projects are you tackling this year and where do you see the group as a whole in 2020?

Kiss: On the board, I am responsible for Marketing and Human Resources, as well as investment projects and the holdings in our subsidiaries. Pavel Pokorny is responsible for Finance and IT. Martin Horinek, who joined Metrans a few years before I did, heads the operational side. We are a team pursuing success. Looking towards 2020, I would say that we aim to be larger, faster, better, more efficient and more digital. Along with our clients, we seek to maintain profitable growth. We are therefore continually seeking fresh solutions and developing ideas to enable us to back our claim to perform with even higher quality.

What really distinguishes Metrans’ container block train system and which challenges do you foresee for multi-modal transport in the next few years?

Kiss: Metrans is the simple answer to the complexity of multi-modal transport: Close to our customers, operating port-to-door, and with all-embracing process management. For all this, our five hub terminals are one of our real assets. We aim to leave port rapidly and shift freight on into the hinterland, so that customers receive their goods as rapidly as possible and feel well supported. If the customer wants, we offer an all-inclusive package, i.e., one featuring no more than one key-account contact.

Is growth on the traditional Metrans routes still feasible or are you looking towards new regional markets? Are services to China along the New Silk Road of interest there?

Kiss: For us, Europe has the major advantage that in almost all regions, it is still growing. Nevertheless, conditions for growth vary from region to region. Naturally, we keep an eye on developments in other markets, one of these being the New Silk Road. Here too, we are right alongside our customers.

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