It might not work for every city struggling with road congestion, but authorities in Belgium have come up with a unique approach to easing traffic on some of their busiest highways: establishing a train dedicated solely to beer.
The new "beer train" made its inaugural run in mid-June, delivering its frothy cargo—Jupiler beer—from the Anheuser-Busch InBev brewery in Jupille, Wallonia (near Liège), to a distribution center run by wholesaler Delhaize in Ninove, East Flanders (just outside Brussels). The service, which will run three times a week, is intended to replace daily trips by trucks between the two sites. Once fully under way, it is expected to take as many as 5,000 trucks off the road each year.
The service, which was set up with the help of the province of East Flanders, is a collaboration between Belgian rail operator Lineas and third-party logistics service specialist Remitrans. In addition to easing pressure on the roads (particularly the crowded ring road around Brussels), the switch to rail will help the supply chain partners meet sustainability goals like cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Giant brewer AB InBev, for instance, has a worldwide goal of cutting its carbon dioxide emissions at least 25 percent by the end of 2017.
Belgian authorities say the new service is part of a concerted effort to promote intermodalism. "The beer train deserves to be copied," Flemish Minister of Mobility Ben Weyts told RailFreight magazine. "Companies don't have to stare blindly at traffic jams at their front doors: there are often excellent alternatives ... at the back door, like waterways or railways. When partners work together and look at alternatives with an open mind, thousands of lorries can be removed from our roads."