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Wagon, train, hub and business models for future rail freight services for Low Density High Value Goods in Europe- findings from a GAP analysis

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Tom ZunderORCiD, Dr Dewan Islam


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Rail freight transport is generally favoured by customers moving low value high volume cargo such as coal (e.g. for power plants), steel (e.g. for ship manufacturing), and other raw materials for industrial input. In recent years, there have been major changes in the composition of the cargo, where semi-finished (e.g. car parts) and finished products present the greatest demand for transport in Europe. This type of cargo is typically lower density and higher value (LDHV) and requires faster and more reliable transportation. Currently, LDHV goods are predominantly transported by road transport. The EC 2011 Transport white paper sets targets for modal shift from road to more sustainable modes such as rail and inland waterways. Hoping to achieve a shift of 30% by 2030 and 50% by 2050 for distances greater than 300km. Achieving this ambitious modal shift targets will require a significant change to current practices. The objective of this research is to suggest the rail freight service offering (operational and technical) characteristics by 2050. The research explored the ‘existing’ and ‘future’ rail freight solutions for LDHV cargo transport by rail using a GAP analysis – using online questionnaire completed by 24 participants. The analysis examined three core themes of rail freight system: wagon; train and hubs; and business model. The research found under the theme of ‘wagon’ that provision for an electrical power supply to each individual rail freight wagon was deemed important. And with it, the ability to provide power to containers for the transportation of refrigerated goods. The ‘train and hubs’ theme, in part, concentrated on terminal operations and facilities and the research findings suggested that greater importance should be assigned to terminal access and functionality than to their overall cargo handling capabilities. In the ‘business model’ theme one question in particular stood out, suggesting that the ability to freely integrate freight and passenger services should be considered a key requirement of the future railway. The majority of measures explored cannot be considered mutually exclusive. The integration of freight and passenger services for example, requires operational change, but also technical innovation, in order that freight services operate at similar performance levels to passenger services. This research has presented a number of possible solutions that have been assessed in their perceived potential in terms of logistics competitiveness, manufacturing competitiveness and modal shift. These solutions have the capability to promote modal shift by directly strengthening the offering presented by rail freight as an alternative to less sustainable modes such as road. Future research is needed to explore some of the most promising solutions. The adoption of horizontal transhipment technologies in particular has been identified as an intervention, which will overcome some of the existing limitations.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Zunder TH, Jackson R, Islam DMZ

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: World Congress on Railway Research - WCRR 2016

Year of Conference: 2016

Online publication date: 01/06/2016

Acceptance date: 29/05/2016