Position Paper: Issues of Rail Freight 11/07/16

< Back to list

Issues of Rail Freight

Intermodal/Combined Transport on rail, when the cargo shipped is stuffed into an Intermodal Loading Unit (ILU) - container, swap body or semi-trailer - has been the only dynamically growing production system of European rail freight over the past decades. This trend has been driven by two forces: (i) the transformation of the EU economy, which saw the demise of heavy industries such as iron smeltering or coal-based electricity generation, and (ii) the productivity of transhipment between modes enabled by the use of ILUs, which opened the possibility of rail freight transport to a broad range of commodity groups.

Over 40% of European rail freight performance, when measured in terms of tonne-kilometres, consisted of Combined Transport (CT) trains in 2015. Subsequently, CT Operators - the organisers of CT trains - are very important customers of rail freight (traction) services. UIRR, the industry association of road-rail CT, therefore takes a prime interest in the problems and developments of European rail freight.

A series of important communications were published lately, which drive the attention of not only policymakers, but also the public at large towards the challenges and problems of European rail freight:

  • 20 May: Sector Statement on Rail Freight Corridors / Boosting International Rail Freight1
  • 24 May: European Court of Auditors' Special Report No8/2016 on "Rail freight transport in the EU"2
  • 27 May: European Commission Public Consultation on a European rail network for competitive freight3
  • 13 June: Association of American Railroads (AAR) Report on Freight Railroads impacting national and local economies4
  • 21 June: Ministerial Declaration on Rail Freight Corridors to boost international rail freight1

1 http://www.uirr.com/en/media-centre/press-releases-and-position-papers/2016/mediacentre/792-ministerial-declaration-and-sector-statement-concerning-international-rail-freight.html

2 http://www.eca.europa.eu/en/Pages/DocItem.aspx?did=36398

3 http://ec.europa.eu/transport/modes/rail/consultations/2016-european-rail-network-for-competitive-freight_en.htm

4 https://www.aar.org/newsandevents/Press-Releases/Pages/New-Report-Finds-Freight-Railroads-Greatly-Impact-National-Local-Economies.aspx



In brief

Operational, regulatory, investment and legislative changes would be needed to enable European rail freight to deliver on the expectations of society: this has been demonstrated in the various communications released recently by important stakeholders of the issue.

  • The sector should organise itself more efficiently, simplify operational procedures, transparently publish traffic management rules and create transparency toward their implementation, as well as allocate better quality and higher quantity of train paths to freight trains - as permitted and supported by their public sector owners, the Member States.
  • Rail regulators should simplify and harmonise (national) rules, while enforce existing law within the Member States.
  • Infrastructure investments should adhere more closely to the needs of rail freight and a framework to enable genuine private capital inflow to the funding of investments into the rail infrastructure should also be created.

Legislators should create a level playing field between the various competing modes of transport with regards to both the accessing of infrastructure and the internalisation of external costs.

(please read on attachment)

Related documents
Position Paper: Issues of Rail Freight EN