The freight industry is an essential part of the European and Global industry society requiring efficient and reliable delivery of supplies. The total inland freight transport in the EU-28 was estimated to be close to 2100 billion tonne-kilometres (tkm) in 2012 of which a little over three quarters (75.5 %) was transported over roads in 2011 . Transport growth has been significant for many years . Conventional container freight transportation is primarily executed with diesel trucks bringing goods from a sender via several local/regional sorting centrals and then further to the receiver. The operators are largely indifferent as to the identity of transporters between sender and receiver. This process has three main drawbacks:
- Large number of diesel trucks on roads resulting in high external costs borne by the society (cf. below);
- Sub-optimized point-to-point routes with high operational cost/investment, longer transportation time and handling errors.
- Although dramatically lower than decades ago, transports with diesel trucks still result in high internal costs per tkm (borne by the transporter) such as fuel, wages, equipment, fleet depreciation, insurance and harsh driver working conditions.
External costs are paid by the society as a whole – including costs associated with traffic congestion, air pollution, climate change, accidents, etc. Road transport has by far the largest share in total external costs of transport” (Figure 1.2) – being one of the major contributors to GHG emission and one of the few energy consuming sectors where emissions are still increasing. While the EU-27 has reduced the GHG emission by 15% from 1990 to 2010, CO2 emission from road transport has increased by 22% . This testifies to the overall paradox, where rail freight – significant more environmental friendly and secure – is stagnating or declining across Europe. Rail freight is a key element in the establishment of a sustainable transport system, as recognised by the EC in its 2011 Transport White Paper. The low level of external costs generated by rail freight should make it the choice for freight customers looking to reduce their carbon footprint. Various policy measures and instruments have been introduced during the last decade, with a view to reinforcing the competitiveness of rail freight. However, data collected shows that the overall impact of these measures has been very limited. Modal shift towards rail is still far from being a reality, and the situation has worsened during the last decade – with the overall modal share of rail decreasing (18.5% in 2000 to 16.2% in 2010, EU-27).
Average external costs for freight transport (excluding congestion) in 27 European countries, 2008. Source: CER & UIC Greening Transport – Reduce External Costs (April, 2012)
Internal costs are borne directly by the transporters and are important from a competition perspective – since the freight transport sector is characterized by low margins and high competitiveness. Typically, transport costs account for around 3% of the total costs of industrial production, but with significant variations by industry sector. A cost breakdown, represented as percentage of cost per mile (CPM; Figure 1.3 ), gives a good description of the ground freight cost drivers. Fuel cost represents 31% of the transport cost and as such is a key concern . Wages and equipment represent 51% of the transportation cost.
Internal and external costs from the freight sector can be reduced by moving cargo transport from road to railways – as one train, driven by a single driver, is able to transport the equivalent to up to 60 trucks. The large cargo capacity of trains promotes a drastic reduction on direct and indirect costs per tonne*kilometre (tkm), even when trains are moved on diesel engines (Figure 1.2). Despite all the advantages, a number of barriers are limiting the sector from moving cargo from roads to rails. The need of door-to-door deliveries (low number of intermodal sites), very time-consuming intermodal operations, high costs and lack of efficiency stand as main constraints for transporters at the decision point to deliver cargo by trains. Existing and future technologies (under development) addressing limitations of current multimodal freight operations are too expensive and without the required efficiency to stand as facilitators of the road-rail transport.
In conclusion, there is a need for a radical shift in the freight transport and, not least, there is a need for effective rail-road intermodal concepts that can help moving large shares of freight cargo from road to rail.
Breakdown of internal