This Swedish port keep seeing freighttrains rolling in

The Swedish port of Gothenburg saw its rail freight operations grow in 2022, following the established trend of the past few years. The 515,000 TEUs of container traffic transported by rail in 2022 signalled a 12 per cent increase compared to 2021 (458,000 TEUs). As the central hub of the Railport Scandinavia system, the port of Gothenburg is one of the most prominent rail freight locations in Scandinavia.

A few months ago, Elvir Dzanic, the port’s CEO, highlighted how more and more goods owners choose the port of Gothenburg for their container transports no matter where they are in the country. “The port’s growing railway system, Railport Scandinavia, has played a crucial role. The system has been expanded gradually with more departures, new inland terminals and destinations,” he said. More destinations will be added to the port’s network in 2023.

“Transporting container freight by rail to and from the port’s inland terminals all over the country is very common. This year’s growth resulted from long-distance services and increased short-distance rail operations. However, the biggest growth is evident in traffic to and from Northern Sweden,” explained the port.

Swedish North, an industrial powerhouse

Rail traffic between the Swedish North and the port of Gothenburg did not contribute to the port’s increased rail freight throughput by luck. According to the port, the Swedish north is an industrial powerhouse, making it one of the country’s most used rail freight destinations. Industrial products find their way to the south by rail, while raw materials destined for the factories do the same in the opposite direction.

To highlight the Swedish North’s transport significance, one can look at some figures: “the North of Sweden (Norrland) is the backbone of the Swedish export industry and energy supply, and it is set to grow fast. Over the next 20 years, more than SEK 1,000 billion (95 million euros) will be invested in new industries. Northvolt’s battery factory in Skellefteå and fossil-free steel production in Boden are known to most Swedes. Still, these investments are just the tip of the iceberg in the industrial boom underway in the north, which will mean an increased need for transport in the near future,” said the port of Gothenburg.

Goals met, but what is next?

Last year the port of Gothenburg set the goal to reach and exceed 500,000 TEUs transported by rail in 2022. The target was met, but the port keeps a lower profile this year. “The shopping frenzy is gone. Consumer goods such as clothing and home electronics are areas where we’re seeing falling import volumes. We saw clear indications towards the end of 2022, and the initial trend in 2023 suggests a further decline, as product owners, in many cases, have full warehouses and are seeing lower demand, resulting in reduced transport requirements,” commented Dzanic.

With Gothenburg being the logistics hub for Scandinavia, able to transport cargo to all countries effectively by using rail as a central player, less import demand could mean reduced rail freight volumes in the future. However, there is some positive news. The port expects the Swedish manufacturing and forestry industries to remain healthy, meaning that strong Swedish exports will probably continue.

Since a big part of the port’s rail volumes concerns the manufacturing industry and forestry products, this trend will allow the hub to keep the rail growth trend going for the year to come despite the challenges.