Modal shift from road to rail freight to be driven by sustainability goals

THE rail sector is using the argument that freight transport is more sustainable than road to encourage customers to make the modal shift towards rail

14 October 2019 - 19:00

THE rail sector is using the argument that freight transport is more sustainable than road to encourage customers to make the modal shift towards rail.

Hellenic Shipping News asked Europe Container Terminal's (ECT's) commercial executive Arno van Rijn and chief public affairs officer Rob Bagchus how realistic the objective is for 30 per cent of freight to be transported by rail by 2030.

In Europe, 18 per cent of freight is transported via rail at present. In the port of Rotterdam, that share is only 10 per cent, which is partly due to Rotterdam's excellent accessibility via inland shipping. Nonetheless, Mr van Rijn expects more freight to be transported by rail in the coming years.

'Clients are increasingly taking CO2 emissions into account when selecting the type of transport they use. Rail scores well on this point. We're also seeing more frequent use of barge and rail combinations. This offers a range of interesting options.'

Sustainability is not the only factor when determining which transport mode to use. 'The challenge for rail transporters is to remain competitive. Government measures with respect to the usage fee for rail are incentives that are going in the right direction. These are fantastic developments, because there's still space for increased use of rail.'

ECT is already benefiting from the modal shift. The company is making direct rail connections between deep-sea traffic on Maasvlakte and Europe using three of its own rail terminals. The rail terminals have 16 tracks and also form the start and end point of the Betuwe route. Weekly these rail terminals form the 24/7 hub for a 100 shuttle trains from destinations, including Linz, Duisburg, Strasbourg and Basel, to economic centres throughout Europe.

The company has also offered sustainable transport since 2009 using 'European Gateway Services' via inland shipping and rail to and from a network of inland terminals, including the 'last mile'. EGS is the largest maritime rail operator in Rotterdam with 40 weekly services to and from destinations in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Austria. Annually, one million TEU is transported across the EGS network.

Mr Bagchus was quoted as saying: 'Rail is attractive for us in tapping into new markets, particularly those in south Germany. But by bundling cargo, we can also have some 25 trains a week running to Venlo in the Netherlands.'

According to Mr van Rijn, it is hard to predict whether rail will achieve 30 per cent by 2030. 'The increase in share will definitely be achieved in the coming decades.'

'How substantial that increase will be depends on politics,' stated Mr Bagchus. 'Our rail network is predominantly mixed. It is important that freight transport is given a fully fledged position in relation to passenger transport. That will enable us to take considerable steps.'


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