Peter Kiss, Managing Director of METRANS Group - We are intensively developing the terminal in Indjija and we want daily departures 29/02/24

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Author: M. Milosavljević



Peter Kiss, Managing Director of METRANS Group - We are intensively developing the terminal in Indjija and we want daily departures


There is no future for combined transport without powerful terminals, METRANS Group CEO Peter Kiss says in an exclusive interview for PlutonLogistics .

The railway subsidiary Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) added an intermodal terminal in Indjija to its network a year ago , after the acquisition of the regional brand Adria Rail . In this way, the strong expansion of the METRANS Group in Southeast Europe began, and since a few weeks ago, Adria Rail is also in their 100% ownership.

- I think this step only proves what we discussed before - that the Serbian market has huge potential and that our plan is to grow together - Kiss points out for our portal.



PL : How was the first year of operation of the terminal in Indjija under the management of METRANS?

- I can confirm that so far everything is going according to plan. Taking over the management of a terminal that already had its own "habits" and usual procedures is certainly a challenge, but it is not something that is impossible. Right now, our team from the terminal in Dunajska Streda is in Inđija, where it provides support to colleagues who work there.

At the beginning of February, we took the biggest step so far with the full implementation of the METRANS information system. Although no beginning is easy, we are seeing really good progress and improvements are visible on a daily basis. I am confident that Indjija will soon become a full member of METRANS, providing the same level of service as any other terminal in our network.

PL : What routes do you serve from this hub, how does it look in terms of the number of trains and lines?

- When it comes to trains, we currently offer 3 return trips per week between the port of Rijeka and the Inđija terminal and their utilization is at a very good level. While on the one hand we are focusing on sales activities in Serbia, on the other hand we are preparing for an increase in the number of outbound trips.

The long-term goal is, of course, to have a daily line. With METRANS equipment in the form of wagons and locomotives, we are ready for that.

In addition to the line with Rijeka, we also have a line between METRANS terminal Budapest and Inđija. Our terminal in Budapest serves as a hub for the delivery of cargo from all other ports in which we are active, including Hamburg, Bremerhaven, Wilhelmshaven, Koper, etc. But let's not forget about Malaszewicze, the hub for our service on the New Silk Road, from where a direct train to Indjija has already been successfully tested. And of course, our others within the European connection.

PL : Now that it is fully integrated into the METRANS network, what are the future plans for Indjija? In which direction will the development move?

- On the one hand, we will continue to improve what we have achieved in terms of operations and processes. On the other hand, we recently started expanding the terminal. The current size and the equipment it has is, of course, sufficient for now, but as I mentioned before, our goal is to grow.


At the beginning of February, the full implementation of the METRANS information system was completed at the terminal in Indjija


PL : During our previous conversation in the middle of 2023, you emphasized that you see huge potential not only in Serbia, but also in the whole of Southeast Europe. What are the most important achievements in this region in 2023 and what are the plans for this year?

- The most important achievement is the progress we have made. You can't build a castle out of sand, history has shown that many times. First we have to build a foundation that will last. The world of logistics has been facing many obstacles in recent years, and our goal is to establish a service that will be able to withstand such obstacles. Once you have the foundation, you can start building. We see a very positive development and this gives us the confidence to continue our work.

Last but not least, I would like to point out with pleasure and pride that Adria Rail is now 100% part of the METRANS Group. I think that this step only proves what we discussed before, that the Serbian market has huge potential and that our plan is to grow together.

We see the future in Serbia. Also, we are in the process of obtaining a license for rail freight transportation. Already today, METRANS wagons, as well as locomotives, are used in cooperation with our reliable partners to provide rail connections to and from Serbia, as well as within and through Serbia.


PL : Where do further acquisitions fit into this? Are you negotiating to buy any other companies?

- Of course, we strengthened commercial, sales and operational activities with the support of other METRANS colleagues from various countries with different experiences. Establishing a successful commercial partnership takes time, we need to get to know the Serbian market, just as our customers get to know the way we do business. So far we can say that a positive trend has been noted, new partnerships have been established and we are looking forward to growing together with our customers. I hope to announce further plans soon.


PL : How does the image look when we enlarge the frame? What marked the business of the METRANS company in 2023 on a global level, are you satisfied with the achieved results and what were you particularly focused on?

- We should not waste too many words on the challenging conditions of 2023. Last year was not very easy, the post-pandemic situation combined with the crisis in Ukraine led to a sharp rise in energy costs, which significantly changed the world of transport. Another and also very important fact is the global economic environment, which was supposed to improve during 2023, but unfortunately that did not happen.

All in all, if we look at last year's results, we should be satisfied - we have maintained our market position and business volume.

If we talk about the details, then there are many changes that, I believe, are less visible from the outside, but very significant for our future development. As they say - "everything is connected to everything". Following that philosophy, we launched a program of gradual reconstruction of our terminals, these are measures that begin with the construction of new capacities, the acquisition of additional cranes and equipment, and end with new IT tools.

Why should this be cited as a major achievement? Well, because combined transport has no future without powerful terminals. Therefore, increasing the current flexibility and expanding the terminal network is a key task for us.

METRANS is known as an expert in intermodal transport of containers to and from seaports, but sea freight is only part of our activities. Our growing network of terminals also opens up many other opportunities for transport within Europe, which is a very important thing and a milestone in the long journey towards CO2 neutral transport on the continent.


PL : To some extent, you also answered the next question I would like to ask, but let's summarize anyway. Do you expect the factors we mentioned, such as energy and fuel prices or inflation, to continue to impact your industry's operations in 2024?

- The fourth quarter of 2023, as well as the final volume of the main European ports, clearly showed the outlook for 2024 and the first month of 2024 confirmed this development.

It is no secret that the transport industry is not a manufacturing sector, transport is a service sector, we can only move existing cargo and if the volume decreases, it is not a good sign for us. By all accounts, almost all European countries have overcome jumps in the consumer price index, but the question is with what consequences.

Could our transport sector project consumer price indices into selling prices? What part of the consumer price index and rising costs has remained in our sector without compensation? I will remind you that our sector traditionally works with low profit margins, which is why further reduction can only lead to unhealthy development and delayed or reduced investments, which are necessary to ensure constant improvement.

Energy costs still remain a problem, I believe that no one can predict how it will develop further. Here too, jumps and hard times are behind us. Furthermore, we also see the turbulent political situation in the Red Sea region, which directly affects the transportation industry, and in addition, energy prices around the world.


PL : Are the large projects on the railway infrastructure throughout Europe part of that complicated equation, to what extent do they reflect on the work of METRANS?

- The topic of railway infrastructure is still a never-ending story. There are many plans and projects on how to improve the situation, how to solve the bottlenecks that currently exist. METRANS operates internationally, we cross many borders and we see that in certain regions planned projects are stopped or limited before they even start. We see ourselves as ambassadors of intermodal transport, our focus is to transport as much freight as possible by rail. For this reason, we not only find buyers, but also negotiate with all government authorities involved in the planning and approval process, explaining what must be done from a practical point of view. And we think we have a lot of experience.


PL : One of the most pressing issues in the rail transport industry is undoubtedly the digital automatic coupler. What is your opinion about the future of DAC and its potential for improving railway safety, but also for bringing economic benefits? Also, how do you think the introduction of DAC should be financed?

- The targeted and announced result is the increase of interoperability and the elimination of dangerous and difficult jobs for railway workers. In principle, no one can have anything against this. But let's get into the details. DAC is synonymous with "coupling", what about decoupling , are we really eliminating this type of work? There are different types of rail transport, and I must say that a large part of the transport is done in block trains, where no coupling/uncoupling is required, or say you only need to connect the traction locomotive.

DAC could, of course, improve the situation in the transport of individual wagon shipments. However, it is a regulation that should be applied in all European countries, and each of them has a different share of this type of traffic. Furthermore, the costs that will be required for implementation and the timeframe in which the investment will pay off should also be discussed. In short, the costs will affect everyone, while only some of the market participants will benefit from it.

We can think about the consequences together. A classic coupling is a piece of metal, easy to handle and control. With a "digital" system, it won't be so simple anymore, because hardware is combined with fine electronics.

It's doable, but it's not that simple anymore. And of course, you'll need well-trained technicians for maintenance and repairs, and here we come back to cost. They will by no means be small and will have to be reflected in our prices. The question is whether the market will accept it or we would worsen the conditions for rail transport again.

In general, DAC is a solution for the future, but in my opinion, the right way is to implement it step by step and where it is thought out, where the system could be helpful. The regulations coming from outside and the costs, whether ETCS or DAC, are well-intentioned changes, but it is "too much of a good thing" at once. If only individual railway companies were responsible for financing, then this would be really problematic and would not improve their situation in the market. Consequently, it would jeopardize the EU's C02 neutrality goals, which cannot be achieved without railways. There is a lot of talk about quality and the need for a transition to green transport, but, unfortunately, it is much less implemented in reality.