Reports 17 Jun 2008

From truck to train - Thirteen examples of successful modal shift in European freight transport

Over the last few years, goods transport and logistics in Europe have seen dynamic developments, and all the forecasts predict that transport performance will continue to grow. The efficiency and reliability of goods transport are of central importance to Europe’s competitiveness and are at the same time a considerable challenge. Solutions have to be found for coping with the growth in goods transport that equally balance the needs of business with social and environmental responsibility.

Worldwide, major economic regions rely on the railways for transporting their goods: the market share of rail transport in Australia, Russia, the USA and China is between 40% and 50%. In all these countries, rail freight is the market leader and clearly beats the competition. This is not the case in Europe, where the road networks have for decades received a larger share of public invest- ments; a situation where rail transport markets have been effectively cut off from each other; and existing technical barriers have meant that the rail freight market share in the EU 27 today is 16.8%. However, the signals for change have been set. The opening of the entire European rail network to freight on 1 January 2007 was a milestone in many respects. The numerous measures for increased interoperability between Europe’s railways and first steps towards simplifying the administration of licensing rolling stock are showing positive effects. At the same time, rail freight is also profiting from the current trends in the freight and logistics market: the increasing internationalisation of goods traffic, longer transport distances, the rising use of containers and the growing importance of the energy efficiency of transport are congruent with the strengths of the railway system.

Across Europe, a varied picture can still be seen: whereas rail freight is still losing market share in the countries where the opening up of the markets and liberalisation are lagging behind, it has managed to stop its downward slide in others, for example in central and eastern Europe. Market share is even growing at a rapid pace in countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and Sweden. In spite of regional differences, the trend on the European level is positive, with rail freight’s market share in the 27 EU countries increasing slightly in 2006 for the first time in a long while.

Nevertheless, decisive political action is needed to ensure that the railways are in an even better position to achieve their maximum potential in the future. The key to this is summed up with the phrase ‘level playing field.’ For example, administrative hurdles are still a substantial problem for rail companies trying to establish new cross-border freight services. Also, unfair infrastructure charging between road and rail remains an important source of competitive disadvantage to the railways.

This booklet shows how many enterprises from across the EU have successfully turned to rail as a solution in solving their freight transport logistics challenges and every day, more and more companies are following suit. The examples presented in the following pages show that rail freight does indeed have a future, one which will continue to grow if the right conditions are achieved. The case studies in this booklet also effectively demonstrate how a modal shift from the roads to the railways will make a considerable contribution towards ensuring that the transport of goods becomes more environmentally friendly. This is particularly important in relation to reductions in CO2 emissions, for which the EU has set ambitious targets.

We trust you find what follows informative, convincing and factual, and that it will be but the beginning of a rejuvenated rail freight logistics system across Europe.