Trucks are replacing railways in Latvian freight transport

Statisticians note there was a 4.5% increase in freight transport in the first half of this year compared to the first half of last year, despite the fact that the volume freight transported of state-owned company Latvijas dzelzceļš (LDz) and transshipped in Latvian ports has continued to decrease.
09.09.2021. Arnis Kluinis

Entrepreneurs have provided statisticians with information on 48.581 million tons of transported cargo. Statisticians have calculated that this means an increase of 2.074 million tons or 4.5% in the volume of cargo transported compared to the first half of last year.

The lion's share of transportation has been provided by road transport. It transported 37.8 million tons of cargo, which means an increase in the volume of cargo by 3.8 million tons or by 11.1%. The increase in tons and percentage was held back by LDz and several freight carriers using LDz rails. A total of 10.2 million tons of cargo was transported on them during the first half of the year, which corresponds to a decrease in the amount of cargo by 1.4 million tons or 11.9%.

28.7 million tons of cargo were transported by road domestically (+9.1%) and 9.1 million tons internationally (+18%). The volume of exported cargo added up to 2.5 million tons (+38.8%), imports - 1.79 million tons (+21.4%), but cargo transportation abroad by Latvian companies - 4.8 million tons (+8.3%).

One of the side effects of the increase in the volume of road freight transport is that it seems as if “Latvians no longer know how to drive cars”. This was concluded from the data provided by the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs that out of 10,908 work permits for foreigners valid on July 1 this year, 3,708 permits were issued to truck drivers and another 606 to tow truck drivers. All the best for Latvian entrepreneurs who know how to hire Uzbek drivers for cargo transportation between France and Germany. Without their 4.8 million tons and their increase in volume, the results of the transport sector would look much worse. There is no answer to the question of whether the owners of companies registered in Latvia are from Latvia or not. For statisticians, the fact that transport companies are registered in Latvia is enough to record and announce the country's economic success.

The number of drivers hired abroad is higher than the number of people who are fired by LDz because the company no longer has a job for them - that is, no cargo to be transported. Last year, the total number of LDz employees was reduced by 1.6 thousand people, but this year's task is to lay off 900 people.

The news of the increase in road freight transport sounds encouraging to local eyes and ears, but one should be careful not to boast of such success in Brussels, where the green course very often includes the slogan of ending such transport altogether. This means returning all cargo to the railway. Latvia can promise that this will happen with the completion of Rail Baltica. The volume of road transport shows that the volume of freight transported during the year in the directions that Rail Baltica could cover can indeed be expressed in millions of tons.

For the continued existence of LDz, it is important to show that in the first half of this year, domestic transportation increased by 13.6% to 725.6 thousand (or 0.72 million) tons of cargo. Such shipments cannot pay off, but they can justify state subsidies to LDz, as they correspond to the green course. At the same time, the increase of transit cargo transportation by 51.6% (!) to 2.2 million tons should be emphasized.

Transit cargo is defined by LDz as cargo that is not sent to or from Latvian ports. In other words, they are not cargo in relation to Russia or other countries, starting with Belarus, which Russia has included in its sphere of influence. Latvia is successfully getting rid of such cargoes.

A total of 20.5 million tons of cargo was handled in the ports, which were transported to or from the ports by rail, car or by oil pipeline to Ventspils.

Disposal of incoming and outgoing eastbound cargo has continued to reduce the amount of cargo handled in ports. In the first half of this year, the Port of Riga had 10.2 million tons (-14.5% compared to the first half of last year) and the Port of Ventspils - 5.8 million tons (-14.2%). The decline has been mitigated by the port of Liepāja with + 9.1% to 3.4 million tons, as well as small ports with + 24.4% to 1.1 million tons of cargo.

In the cargo nomenclature, the disappearance of coal is noticeable, as the amount of decrease turned out to be 91.2%. The situation is saved by the increase in exports of wood products and imports of construction materials through ports.


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