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Contship Italia has doubled its intermodal rail services between Milan and Zurich, with plans for expansion into the Bavarian market by September.

The carrier added the Zurich service last month, as it looks to consolidate its position within that market.

Since 2013 it has seen substantial growth, having hit 13,000 teu annually over the four years to 2017, although marketing director Daniele Testi said its 50,000 teu target would not be “easy”.

“Our ultimate aim is to secure 5-10% of Swiss container volumes, equating to some 50,000 teu annually,” Mr Testi told The Loadstar.

“This won’t be easy, but we added a new service from Milan to Zurich on 2 July, and from September will have three round trips a week into Munich.”

Although even here, Contship is looking to boost its standing, with plans for a further two Munich services by 2023.

Alongside enhanced rail services, Mr Testi said work was under way to boost capacity at the port of La Spezia.

“Our plans at the port will see capacity increase from the current 1.4m teu to 2m teu, annually,” he continued. “This is a long project but by 2020 we hope to have the first part completed, with the full thing finalised by 2023.”

By that same period, Mr Testi said there were hopes the traffic in and out of the port by rail would also have increased.

Presently around 35% of volumes go via rail, with 65% being moved overland by truck. By 2023, he said, the the aim was for this to be a 50:50 split.

“Even at 35%, this is still three times more rail-to-port traffic than seen across the rest of Italy – this shows our focus is not just on speeding quay times,” said Mr Testi.

“This requires increased train sizes; we presently run 550-metre trains, which handle 1,200 tea, but we need 700-metre trains and we are working on this.”

Despite his optimism for the port’s future, Mr Testi recognised there were areas the port needed to improve on. He pointed to security issues once the containers were on the train and moving.

“We have had issues with containers being opened – mainly for theft – once they’ve left the port,” he said. “Even if the attempted theft fails, once the seals have been broken the containers need to be returned.

“But in general, our customers are happy with the way we are progressing. We will never be able to compete with the likes of Rotterdam but that is not our intention. We are focused on a very specific market and we are working towards achieving these aims.”

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