Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) announced the launch of a container rail freight service connecting India's commercial centres of New Delhi and Mumbai, a company statement said.
The service, which will trade under the APL IndiaLinx™ brand, offers solutions to the problems of transportation congestion by providing reliable rail connections with container ships and by significantly shortening inland transit times. The service will also provide first and last mile connectivity via trucking services to and from inland container depots.
While the initial focus will be on the New Delhi-Mumbai corridor, the Category 1 licence will enable APL IndiaLinx™ to run trains without limitations throughout India. The first train departed ICD Loni Near Delhi for Mumbai on 31 May.
APL IndiaLinx™ is the product of a joint venture between NOL and Hindustan Infrastructure Projects and Engineering (HIPE). The JV formally received a Category 1 licence to run freight trains in India for 20 years, extendable by another 10 years, in March 2006.
Senior NOL representatives, including NOL Group Deputy President, Cedric Foo and APL Logistics President, Brian Lutt, attended the APL IndiaLinx™ launch event in New Delhi. They were joined by HIPE Chairman Rajeev Chandrasekhar and representatives of many of India's leading companies, as well as Indian government VIPs and railways representatives.
Mr Foo said: "After more than a year of hard work and planning, I'm delighted to introduce APL IndiaLinx™. We commend the Indian Government for its efforts to attract overseas investment and expertise into its transportation sector. I'm certain our investment and know-how will support the growing import and export markets here in India by providing rapid and reliable transportation solutions."
Mr Chandrasekhar said: "Today is an important milestone for India's rail and transportation sector. This has been made possible by the recent policies of the Railway Ministry in inviting private investment and public-private partnership to expand the country's rail infrastructure thereby providing customers with more transportation choices. Rapid investment in this sector is crucial for sustained economic growth of our economy.”
"This project also represents an important part of HIPE's focus and investment in the transportation sector, which includes ports, ICDs and other ventures. We are delighted to be working with NOL and are excited by the potential of APL IndiaLinx™ to become the market-leading rail freight service for India's importers and exporters."
The importance of overcoming inadequate transportation infrastructure to India's economic progress was identified in research commissioned by NOL in 2005. The report, called "Connecting India: Transport Challenges and Opportunities", concluded that India risks missing out on an additional 1-2% of annual GDP growth led by its manufacturing sector unless it can improve its transportation connections to meet the needs of complex international supply chains.
"By owning our own rail wagons, and organising our own timetable, we can offer India's shippers a single point of contact for the coordination of the inland and ocean portions of their transportation in India," said NOL President for South Asia, Kenneth Glenn.
APL IndiaLinx™ will be backed by container transportation leader APL's renowned service reliability and decades of rail service operating experience. APL was a pioneer of intermodal transportation and introduced revolutionary double-stack trains in the US in 1984.
"We are uniquely qualified to offer this type of service having run highly successful train services in the US for decades. We have now brought this expertise into India and aim to run a faster and more efficient operation than has ever been available before," added Mr Glenn.
Through its APL and APL Logistics businesses, the NOL Group has a strong presence in India. Its leadership began in 1973 when APL landed the first-ever cargo container on Indian soil at Cochin. Today, APL and APL Logistics have a country-wide network of 26 offices and over 350 employees. APL offers weekly container shipping services from 12 India ports of call to more than 25,000 locations around the world. APL Logistics offers a full range of value-added logistics services and manages a 280,000 square metre country-wide network of warehouses and distribution facilities. APL and APL Logistics also run a 100,000 TEU capacity container freight station at Dadri.