07 October 2021

Let’s get rail freight to rumble!

What can make Rail Freight more attractive? This question was raised to rail freight customers at the event on rail freight, organised by the European Commission, in cooperation with the Luxembourg Ministry of Mobility and CER on the 5th of October in Bettembourg, Luxembourg.

‘The current 19% average market share of rail freight in Europe is not where we want to be with so many partners willing to connect to the network of rail.  A number of things need to change, not the least customer orientation by providing better performance in terms of speed, reliability, punctuality and flexibility’. This was the point made by Thomas Kowitzki from DHL Global Freight Forwarding, adding that ‘Europe can make rail freight more competitive by embracing European harmonised standards and investments in rail freight.’ But when it comes to investment, there is more to consider than just tracks: for combined transport to flourish, there is a need for terminal capacity, sufficient trucking access and cross-docking. A comprehensive network of intermodal terminals, offering unconstrained access to European rail freight network, and the appropriate TEN-T infrastructure parameters will be key to keep up with the rapid expansion of cargo volumes. Above all customers should receive more timely updates on ETA’s to make rail freight a more reliable alternative for shippers. 

Nicolette van der Jagt, Director General of CLECAT, noted that it does not harm to repeat these messages again and again, particularly in view of the EU’s environmental plans set out in the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy. She noted: ‘Now is the time for Europe to put its money where its mouth is. We look forward to the revision of the TEN-T guidelines and the Rail Freight Corridor Regulation as this means building new lines and sections, modernising existing ones, bridging missing links, removing bottlenecks and adding a digital layer to the physical infrastructure.  It is time to address all issues which are holding back the development of seamless, cross-border freight services, and the creation of a true Single European Railway Area.’

But rail freight should not be complacent - all modes of transport are contributing to improve their targets for CO2 reduction and freight forwarders use all modes of transport. Achieving Europe’s modal shift ambitions will only be realistic if the right framework conditions are put in place. Multimodality can play a key part in this. CLECAT has put to paper its views on the upcoming review of the Combined Transport Directive. Europe can’t afford to miss another opportunity to get it right with this new proposal.

The event was as part of the European Year of Rail and one of the stops of the Connecting Europe Express train

The CLECAT position paper is available here.