ČD Cargo – apex predator in the European region

Published: 29. 6. 2022
Author: Michal Roh
Photo: Photo Peter Melicher, Lubomír Novák
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This year will mark the fifteenth anniversary of ČD Cargo being an independent company. Over the course of its existence, this company that formerly shipped goods mostly around the Czech Republic transformed into an apex predator that is active in seven European countries and ships roughly eight million tons of goods abroad.

Expanding into foreign markets is one of the four building blocks of ČD Cargo’s strategy for the future. Also part of its long-term strategy is interoperability, intermodality, and social responsibility. Thanks to this solid foundation, it has transported over 60 million tons of goods and amassed revenues of nearly 11 billion CZK. These results put ČD Cargo in the top five transportation companies in the European Union.

Getting licensed

Stretching back many years, Czech Railways at the time had maintained a foothold in neighboring European countries. These foreign cells were primarily tasked with representing the company and dealing with partners abroad. Over time, these representative offshoots transformed into independent trading companies. Following the inception of ČD Cargo, they turned into subsidiaries that were primarily tasked with the acquisition of shipping deals in the given region. There soon came another task: acquiring all the necessary concessions for rail freight transportation.

The first “license” obtained was in Poland in 2009 under the subsidiary that was called Koleje Czeskie at the time. At present, CD Cargo Poland transports black coal from the mines of Silesia not only to Czechia but also to Polish power and heating plants, it also ships transit containers from Czechia to Belarus, and potentially China, and hauls mineral resources from ports in the Baltics to Czechia and metallurgical products in the other direction. Its timber shipping operations are also noteworthy. It transports between 3.5 and 4 million tons of lumber in Poland. CD Cargo Poland trains are pulled by older ČD Cargo locomotives but also the modern Dragon or  TRAXX engines. It also has over 700 freight wagons at its disposal. Based on the contracts it has signed, the shipping company has access to the Russian Railways rail network in Kaliningrad, the Belarussian Railways network in Brest as well as other stations in the border regions, and the Lithuanian Rail network’s Mockava station.

Other markets

The rail freight transportation licenses in Austria and Germany are not held by subsidiary companies but by branches directly reporting to the Prague ČD Cargo headquarters. Developing activities in these regions has allowed the company to purchase new Vectron engines for its trains. Our first train on the Austrian railways transported freight in January 2019, in Germany, it was in April 2020. Thanks to the collaboration between its two foreign branches, ČD Cargo offers not just the transit shipping route through Slovakia and Czechia, but also the railway corridor through Austria, Passau, and on to Germany. The branches have transported a wide array of goods ranging from lumber, black coal, and wheat all the way to chemicals and automotive products. Our locomotives regularly venture to the Tarvisio station in the Austrian-Italian borderlands as well as the Basel marshalling yards in Switzerland. Using the last-mile module of the TRAXX engines, they can access loading bays and branch lines that have no electricity. Other western European markets are also interesting, specifically the Benelux countries for instance. As of December 2021, we are transporting freight trains four times a week between Lovosice and Rotterdam via MegaHub Lehrte, using a ČD Cargo locomotive for the entire route.

Southward bearing

Our further expansion vector was aimed east toward the Balkans. It culminated in the acquisition of “licenses” in Slovakia (June 2020), Hungary (October 2020), and Croatia (April 2022). CD Cargo Slovakia and CD Cargo Hungary focus mostly on transit shipping – lumber, black coal, containers, automotive. They have their own locomotives to run such freight. Both companies are also capable of transporting special shipments – one of such interesting assignments was the shipping of more than 160 tons of heavy-duty transformers to the Mochovice nuclear power plant.

The youngest foreign subsidiary, ČD Cargo Adria, based in Zagreb, was established in May 2021. It operates in Croatia and Serbia, markets that ČD Cargo considers to have great future prospects, especially in connection with the Rijeka and Ploče ports on the Adriatic Sea. The company focuses on shipping container freight and transporting agricultural products. Just recently, the ČD Cargo Adria subsidiary has applied for a license to operate rail freight transportation in Slovenia, and another subsidiary is planned in Serbia in the near future.

We must not forget to mention the fully subsidiary ČD Cargo Logistics company. Its sales managers can assist in providing all kinds of transportation be it on land or sea. It specializes in transporting full-container and individual shipments from (and to) China on the so-called New Silk Road between China and Europe.


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