Can a study succeed and forever change rail freight?

FERRMED has published a study on optimizing traffic and modal shift in the EU. The study presents very interesting proposals on how rail freight can reach the 30% modal share by 2030. Among them are the full use and interconnection of European terminals, targeted investments in the European rail network central and eliminating bottlenecks by optimizing traffic on specific hubs.

The study’s proposals seem ideal, and their implementation is described as the only way to achieve the 30% modal split for rail freight by 2030. The study being large, we focused on most critical points for further study. Are FERRMED’s ideas and proposals realistic and achievable?

“From priority projects to the priority network”

Joan Amoros, president of FERRMED, was adamant that with the current situation, European rail freight will not be able to reach the target of 30% by 2030. practically impossible to achieve this target ”, a- he explained.

In fact, there is only one way to achieve this goal. Amoros explained that Europe should stop focusing on priority projects and start prioritizing investments in the continent’s central rail network. “In our study, we identified a 17,800 kilometer network on which the bulk of European rail freight traffic is concentrated,” Amoros said. “This is where we should be focusing with more investment, like more tracks, longer trains, more flexible terminals and bottlenecks removed,” he added.

EU core backbone network. Source: FERRMED

Hubs with dedicated services

The central European network or “backbone”, as Amoros called it, has the heaviest traffic as it includes some of the main European hubs. Concretely, FERRMED has identified eight “priority” hubs which should attract most of the investment to facilitate traffic within Europe and to and from Asia. These hubs include the Randstad region in the Netherlands, the Rhein-Rhur Gebiet, and Rhein am Frankfurt and Berlin regions in Germany, the Ile de France in France, Barcelona in Spain and Milan in Italy.

EU strategic poles. Source: FERRMED

According to Amoros, these logistics hubs should experience two developments. Better and more terminals and intense connectivity with dedicated optimized trains that will run on demand. What does it mean? This means that these logistics hubs need to optimize terminal capacity and ensure that intermodal terminals can handle traffic from the road. In addition, unused terminals and marshalling yards should be revived to create more capacity and flexibility in the network.

What about dedicated trains? FERRMED strongly believes that one way to increase rail market share is the unhindered connectivity of priority hubs. This should take place with optimized trains as mentioned above. By optimized trains, the association means longer and faster trains that will run exclusively between hubs using the single-car transport scheme. Concretely, these trains should not have any waiting time in the marshalling yards since they will run on demand and depending on the location of the trucks. “They will be flexible and serve the road,” Amoros said, meaning that trains should run in a way that keeps up with road transport demand to absorb as much freight as possible.

How to implement such a study?

The implementation of these suggestions has two aspects: that of executive authority and that of technicality. Regarding administrative authority, the European Union Railway Agency (ERA) should take responsibility for implementing the plans and the FERRMED system. Indeed, the proposed system must have a pan-European character and the ERA is the most appropriate authority to do so.

As for the technical part, ERTMS is the key. To have a fully functional central rail network without bottlenecks, with a continuous flow of information on terminal capacity, freight positioning and track availability, you need telematics. Without upgrading the entire 17,800 kilometer core rail network with ERTMS technology, this will not be possible. Accordingly, the deployment of ERTMS is the main catalyst for the creation of a single fully integrated rail and road system that will help accelerate modal shift.

Is the theory really feasible?

FERRMED invested a lot of time and resources in this study by analyzing data that has not been used before. However, when it comes to implementing his ideas, the most critical element is feedback from the rail freight industry itself. The association says the European Commission is positive, which applies to shippers and road transport companies.

“Shippers are supporting the idea because they face time-saving issues with trucks, while haulage companies like it because they have issues with drivers, especially on the long ones. distances, ”Amoros explained. However, FERRMED still has no feedback from the rail freight industry on the feasibility of the project.

The rail freight companies should undoubtedly be the first to vote on the study and its aspirations, because it is they who will have to adapt their networks, services and terminals according to this pan-European plan. Are they eager to do it? Will such plans pose problems for their operations and their business? And who will take responsibility for making up for the investments and potential financial losses? These questions still need an answer.

However, Ralf-Charley Schultze, president of the International Union for Combined Rail-Road Transport (IUIR), explained that he found FERRMED’s ideas great. “Their vision and approach is excellent, and of course it is important that combined transport is an integral part of their strategy,” he said. “The UIRR actively supports the concept by sharing its knowledge, but we have to wait for the full results of the study to assess its feasibility,” he added.

Schultze concluded that if FERRMED is to be successful, it has to go to the right places and partner with the right institutions for the UIC Instance. Despite the in-depth study of the association and its exciting proposals, it needs more support to realize its plans or integrate with other European projects to have an impact. Nonetheless, “we still have to wait for the final results of the study to judge,” he said.

What do you think? Will FERRMED’s study ultimately change Europan’s rail freight?

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