UIRR Newsletter Q4.2020: A strong performance 17/02/21

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A strong performance


European Combined Transport volumes showed a near 10% rebound, during the October-December period of 2020 compared to the same period of 2019.  Based on this, the intermodal transport performance for the whole year of 2020 is projected to be less than half of the decline in the GDP of the European Union.  Besides the usual brisk fourth quarter economic activity, pre-Brexit stock build-up in UK trade were the engines behind the robust performance, which also propelled the sentiment of CT actors for the next 12 months to ‘slightly positive’.

Fewer than usual passenger trains on the network has meant that freight train punctuality was substantially up, while the mild weather meant that the usual winter weather-related delays were also absent.  New customers were easier to convince to try intermodal transport being backed up by the favourable punctuality and reliability performance.

A safety incident involving the transport of a semi-trailer in a pocket wagon in adverse weather conditions along the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark causes major concern.  Fortunately, the strong cross winds did not cause an accident like in 2019.  Nevertheless, the Danish Railway Safety Authority suspended semi-trailer transport in pocket wagons.  The operator of the Great Belt route did not implement any changes to the infrastructure over the past 2 years, meaning no new wind speed meters, no cameras and no wind shield devices.  Combined Transport, rail freight and infrastructure stakeholders are working together with the national safety authorities on a solution to the issue in the Joint Network Secretariat coordinated by the European Union Agency for Railways.

In January, UIRR unveiled the study done by Oliver Wyman consultants on the impact of the new EU road haulage rules, adopted in July 2020 as part of Mobility Package 1, on Combined Transport.  In the worst-case scenario, the new EU road haulage rules on access to the market and to the profession, as well as the posting of transport workers may cause a significant deterioration of price competitiveness of Combined Transport.  Member States should focus on the use of those legislative tools, which will not turn the cause of freight transport decarbonisation and Combined Transport itself into a collateral damage of the improving social and working conditions of road haulage.

The European Commission’s Strategy on Smart and Sustainable Mobility has been published, which describes the roadmap to achieving the goals of the European Green Deal.  UIRR greeted the communication as it correctly identifies the measures needed to achieve the objective of shifting a significant portion of longer distance road haulage to sustainable modes.  The 50% increase of rail freight – to be achieved by 2030 – will mean the need to double Combined Transport’s tonne-kilometres over the next 10 years.  The Commission predicts that the neutralisation of regulatory imbalances that result in a price advantage for road haulage over sustainable modes will not be achieved before 2050.  Subsequently, the intermodal sector will have to be granted effective temporary compensatory measures to be able to offer the right prices needed for the targeted shift.

UIRR greets new members DUSS, Grand Port Maritime de Marseille, Interporto Bologna, Lanfer Terminals, and the new partner MFD Rail.

Ralf-Charley Schultze – President


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