Groceries take the train again

Many transport customers are concerned about the environment, and would certainly choose the train whenever they can. The reliability of, and trust in freight trains has increased considerably.

For many years, there has been a clear political ambition to move the transport of goods from road to rail. However, the proportion of goods transported by road increased, while freight trains have struggled to keep their customers. 

Now the situation is about to change. Additional funding for the maintenance of the railways recently helped produce a clear improvement in CargoNet’s punctuality and its service to its customers. In fact, punctuality for CargoNet trains in 2015 was better than for many years: 92 per cent of freight was delivered on time. And customers notice. 


The business community is showing an interest in adopting rail freight.

Jon Einar Skarding, Logistics Director in Grenland Havn

Customer oriented

An increasing number of transport customers want to make green choices. NorgesGruppen (one of Norway’s largest grocery chains), with stores like Meny, Kiwi, Joker and Spar, now books even more space on CargoNet trains through its wholesale company ASKO Transport. Environmentally friendly distribution means two things to them: containers must have maximum utilisation and as many as possible should be transferred from lorries to trains.

“We are very concerned about the environment, and over longer transport distances the railway is a more environmentally friendly option than transport by road. We have a very good dialogue with CargoNet. They have become more market- and customer-oriented, so the railway will get a large percentage of our volume of goods this year,” said Asko Transport director Kjell Kirkeby.

Our main customers appreciate the effort CargoNet makes to get freight delivered on time. This means that fruit, vegetables and meat – both chilled products and frozen goods – now travel by freight train. Much is transported by ARE-train (Arctic Rail Express) from Oslo to Narvik, via Sweden. In Narvik the trains are reloaded with fresh fish which is transported south. A total of 20,000 tons of fish is transported through Narvik – every week.


Environmentally friendly distribution means two things to customers: containers must have maximum utilisation and as many as possible should be transferred from lorries to trains.

Kjell Kirkeby, Asko Transport director

Upgrading docks

The town of Mosjøen (mid Norway) saw its last freight train in early 2,000. This resulted in far more trailers on the roads from this industrial hub in the south of Nordland county. Mosjøen harbour was at that time being refurbished to increase the shipping of goods by sea.

An upgraded port should also accomodate transport by rail, said the local Enterprise Board and Mosjøen harbour authority. They contacted CargoNet and Mosjøen has now become a permanent stop for freight trains. This means that industry in Mosjøen and Mosjøen harbour are now connected to CargoNet’s transport routes around Norway and on into Europe. Aluminium from the Alcoa plant and plastic waste for recycling are now carried by CargoNet trains.

“This is only the start for us. This collaboration started during the spring of 2015, and led to us moving 750 tons of aluminium every month from trailer to train. Environmentally this is important for us and in addition loading and unloading is easier. Currently we only transport to Sweden, but we see great opportunities going forward to use rail instead of sea transport to other countries in Northern Europe,” says managing director of Alcoa Mosjøen, Kathrine Næss.

Great opportunities

Further south more and more transport entities saw the possibility of combining freight transport by sea with rail. Grenland harbour is located in the industrial belt in Telemark county. 11 million tons of goods spread between 2 700 boat arrivals makes Brevik one of the country’s main ports, with ties to the Continent and Britain.

“Grenland harbour has long been working towards CargoNet enabling a connection to Brevik terminals. DFDS and CargoNet embraced the idea in 2013, and have brought it to fruition”, says the marketing and logistic director for Grenland harbour, Jan Einar Skarding.

In 2015 train freight started up – once a week between both Brevik and Bergen and Brevik and Oslo. The service soon became a success, and was immediately doubled: yet another weekly departure has been set up.

“We believe this can be developed further, and see the possibility of establishing a railway terminal for handling goods. Businesses in the region who currently use trucks for distribution, are showing interest in adopting this railway service,” says Skarding.

2015 showed a slight decline in the volume transported by CargoNet, but, for the first time in eight years, the company finally delivered positive financial results. Customers’ appetite for more environmentally friendly transport, combined with increased demand due to population growth in urban areas, means that CargoNet is well positioned to contribute to increased transport by rail.


The distance by rail between Oslo and Narvik is 2,000 kilometers – the distance by air between Oslo and Rome. Freight trains use 27 hours on the journey, and run this route ten times a week, round trip.



If everything CargoNet transports by train had been transported by road this would have constituted 186,000 lorry loads per year on Norwegian roads.




If every customer who used Cargonet had used trucks instead, this would have increased CO2 emissions in Norway by 147,000 tonnes. This corresponds to over 1,078 round trips by car to the moon.

1,078 round trips