Freight rail transport
Rail freight transport is losing market shares in domestic transport within the European Union. In Germany, the “Rail Freight Master Plan” is now expected to increase the share of rail in Modal Share significantly by 2030 to cope with the continuing growth of freight transport and to achieve climate targets. A role model for other countries?
Compared to the EU, Germany currently is in the midfield with a share of rail freight transport of 19 percent. A number of emergency measures are expected to increase the proportion significantly and relieve the burden on roads. These include line upgrading, modernization, subsidies for route charges, automation and more funding for innovation projects. “The success of the master plan is extremely important not only for the logistics industry, but also for the entire economy in Germany,” Stefan Rummel, Managing Director of Messe München, explained. “Consequently, the initiative will also be discussed during transport logistics.” According to Eurostat, the share of rail freight transport in domestic transport in the EU even fell from 18.7 percent in 2011 to 17.4 percent in 2016. However, the picture is heterogeneous; while two-thirds of freight is transported by rail in Latvia, the proportion is only five percent in Spain.
“A coordinated approach between the state and industry, as agreed in the master plan, is the only way to implement the necessary innovations and investments in rail freight transport on a broad front,” Sarah Stark stated, Head of European Policy, Rail Technology and Rail Transport at the German Transport Forum. As an initial successful measure, the EU Commission has approved state aid of EUR 350 million to promote rail freight transport in Germany. The money is intended to reimburse companies up to 45 percent for the route charges they have to pay for using the railway network. “This reduces operating costs as a result, which significantly increases the competitiveness of rail freight transport,” Ms. Stark noted.
Integrate private railway operators
It is also crucial to promote investment in digitalization and automation. As an example, Stark cites automatic coupling, shunting and humping of freight cars. “However, such measures only make sense if the freight cars of all railway companies are geared towards this technology. After all, freight trains consist of cars from very different operators,” Ms. Stark said. She calls for a state-sponsored market launch program of more than one billion euros to initiate innovation, half of which is to be financed by the business sector. Stark considers the inclusion of a budget item 'Future Rail Freight Transport Program’ in the German Federal Budget 2020 as a milestone.
Complete, transparent and quiet
The largest freight railway in Europe, DB Cargo, is investing heavily in the digitalization and modernization of its fleet and has already equipped more than 20,000 freight cars with intelligent sensors. “We will have equipped our approximately 68,000 cars with these by the end of 2020. Among other things, we can view up-to-date GPS data via a central system. Transport chains can be monitored seamlessly and efficiently,” Dr. Roland Bosch, CEO of DB Cargo, stated. ÖBB is following a similar path, which currently equips 13,700 wagons with telematics devices under the name “SmartCargo”. DB Cargo will also present a new customer platform for all digital services at transport logistic as well as new cars that enable higher utilization rates and whisper brakes that make rail freight traffic noticeably quieter.
Pooling forces across Europe
Austrian rail freight is at the forefront of the EU, accounting for more than 30 percent of Modal Share. Individual freight car traffic and the nationwide network of control stations play a central role here. “It is essential that we do not see Modal Share at a national level, but at an international one," Clemens Först emphasized, Executive Board Spokesperson at ÖBB Rail Cargo Group. This is the idea of the pan-European “Rail Freight Forward” initiative, in which leading railway companies such as DB Cargo, PKP, Lineas, SBB and SNCF have joined and combines their forces for a 'modal shift'.
Discussions in the conference program of transport logistic
“Rail in the future! What can the Rail Freight Master Plan do?"—The logistics officer of the Federal Government Steffen Bilger will discuss with industry representatives in this forum how rail freight transport is perceived in the logistics market and whether the measures of the master plan are sufficient. In the “Rail Business” Forum, three industry experts will also report on the state of affairs from the point of view of railways and shippers with respect to combined transport as well as individual freight car transport.