Sandra Gehenot, UIC Freight Director, identified the European land freight transport market as «an important economic sector with a significant impact on the environment and society». Moreover, she underlined the importance of working together as a sector, mentioning that this is «the only way to drive the modal shift towards sustainable transport solutions, and rail is a key tool for this».
Specifically, for this goal to be realised, the sector needs to work consistently with a focus on three main pillars: firstly, the formation of a political component requiring a level playing field. Secondly, the strong cooperation with Infrastructure Managers to provide the right level and quality of infrastructure. Finally, railway undertakings also need to improve their product and develop multimodal solutions.
The 2020 Report on Combined transport provides updated market data and analyses for the past two years, as well as insights on new components which included the pandemic crisis and estimations concerning the 2030 and 2050 objectives.
In detail, and according to Eurostat data, «intermodal rail transport in Europe continues to develop more positively than rail freight transport in general», mentioned Mathias Lahrmann, Managing Director of BSL Transportation Consultants. Another interesting point of the report concerns the shares of rail and road freight transport between 2009 and 2018. It seems that the shares of rail freight and particularly combined transport (CT) have significantly increased. In contrast, road freight shares are presenting a decline.
50 per cent increase
More explicitly, CT-volumes during this period have increased more than 50 per cent, with the key driver being cross-border CT, which increased 20 per cent between 2017 and 2019. Additionally, Lahrmann focused on the advantages that combined transport presents in comparison to single-mode transport. These include among others: the easier planning due to fixed journey times, reduction of road congestion, reduction of emissions, improved road safety and reduction of climatic changes, and finally an equal spread of modal split.
On the other side, CT sector has to also deal with some challenges, such as the intense competition on the freight market, comparably low profitability to loss-making business, and little scope for investments in new technologies and innovation. Nevertheless, «railway undertakings, infrastructure managers, together with policymakers and authorities, can have a critical role in the positive development of CT by eliminating bottlenecks», added Lahrmann. Finally, support of CT by all European countries and the improvement of terminal infrastructures, are also some prerequisites for the sector to grow even more.
Combined transport delivers
Mental shift first
Eric Lambert, CT Group Chairman, stretched the importance of «the challenges that we are facing on a global scale», while referring to climate change. He also focused on the strengths that CT combines concerning the environmental impacts. «2021 as the year of rail also needs to include a mental shift that will lead to a modal shift. We need more rail freight, and Combined Transport is an integral part of the solution for encouraging a modal shift and ensuring that rail becomes the backbone of future mobility», he concluded.
Ralf-Charley Schultze, President of UIRR, mentioned that «decarbonisation and effectively countering the other challenges of our times cannot be achieved without a major impact on the way transportation is done today». He then closed his political declaration by saying that «within the transport sector when it comes to the long-distance freight segment, Combined Transport delivers».