Reports 12 Apr 2013

Rail Freight Status Report 2013

More than 10 years ago, ambitious objectives were set for rail freight competitiveness by the European Commission’s 2001 Transport White Paper. Numerous policy measures have been introduced over the last decade in an attempt to realise this vision, and a new Transport White Paper was adopted in 2011, with more ambitious objectives for an efficient and sustainable transport sector.   While the European Commission is introducing a new package of measures for rail – the so-called ‘Fourth Railway Package’ – it is an appropriate time to take stock of both positive and negative developments and to assess the efficiency of measures introduced over the last decade. So what is the state of the rail freight sector after a decade of EU rail policy measures?

Unfortunately, it is not as good as one might hope, and overall progress in the competitiveness of rail freight compared with other modes is rather disappointing. In spite of a significant development in intra-modal competition over the past decade, the much-needed modal shift towards rail, which would bring energy efficiency and important CO2 emissions gains, is still far from being a reality. The imbalance between road and rail freight is increasing, in a worrying move for the sustainability of the transport system.

The railways have demonstrated their commitment to quality and efficiency by subscribing to various quality charters and quality management systems, and are seeking to improve their processes and products, both as a sector and at company level. These positive developments need to be recognised. However, on their own, they are unlikely to prove sufficient to rejuvenate rail freight.

Building on the lessons from the past decade, we need to collectively look at what needs to be done to turn the objectives of the 2011 Transport White Paper into reality. This report aims to do just this, by providing a snapshot of the situation of rail freight and assessing the efficiency of policy measures already introduced. Most importantly, it provides concrete recommendations in order to fully realise the potential of rail freight.

We hope this report will be helpful in reminding all decision makers that structural measures alone will fail if not accompanied by sufficient funding for rail infrastructure and the introduction of appropriate framework measures to put all modes on a level-playing field. We now have a perfect opportunity to rethink policy objectives and to concentrate efforts on the real issues. The railway sector will continue to play its part, but there is no time to waste.