BLS Cargo Calls Outlook for 2020 ‘Bleak’

BLS Cargo says it had a good year in 2019, but the outlook for 2020 is ‘bleak’.

In 2019 BLS Cargo had a good financial year following the company’s successful acquisition of the Belgian rail freight operator Crossrail Benelux NV. That strong position is important, the company said, in order for it to meet the challenge of the current coronavirus crisis.

In 2019 BLS Cargo’s turnover rose to 293 million CHF (278 million euros | 301 million USD), which is a 24.7 percent increase to 2018. This increase is largely the result of the Crossrail acquisition.

On 5 March 2019 BLS Cargo acquired Crossrail Benelux NV’s entire shareholding, backdated with effect from 1 January 2019. 2019 was the first joint business year for the two companies and profits remained stable at 5.6 million CHF (5.3 million euros | 5.8 million USD). In 2019 BLS Cargo operated a total number of 22,265 trains, compared to 17,051 trains in 2018. BLS Cargo employs more than 350 members of staff in four countries.

BLS Cargo Freight train transporting cars
 

Crossrail Benelux NV

Crossrail is responsible for running trains in Germany and Belgium solely on behalf of BLS Cargo. BLS Cargo meanwhile is responsible for all sales activities and is the single point of contact for customers. The company says that separating the roles in this way has made it easier to develop new traffic flows and to consolidate their market position.

Both companies have lean organisational structures. Planning for locomotive demand, operation and maintenance takes place at a central, single point. Further, by combining their locomotive fleets, it is now easier to compensate excess demand or deficits within BLS Cargo.

Coronavirus

The current coronavirus pandemic is proving a challenge for BLS Cargo. It is of course doing what it can to make sure its employees stay healthy while maintaining operations. Services are also currently disrupted because of the line closure on the Rhine corridor between Freiburg im Breisgau and Basel, following a tragic accident in Auggen last week.

BLS Cargo contributes to the delivery of goods to the general public. However, it anticipates a stark loss in both volume and earnings of around 30 percent over the coming months because of the coronavirus pandemic. These losses are largely the result of industrial shutdowns in Italy and the closures of entire industry sectors such as automobile manufacturing. BLS Cargo does see some positive signs, however, with trade from China starting to pick up again.

BLS Cargo says the financial loss for the company as a result of the crisis will be severe. That said, it is in good shape and has demonstrated in the past that it can get through challenging times. It aims to maintain service capability so that it is ready when customers re-start operations. One of the company’s primary objectives remains to support measures aimed at shifting freight traffic to rail.

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