Intermodal Transport Involving Railways - Economic and Environmental Symbiosis

Transport intermodalny i kolej - symbioza ekonomii z ekologią

In 2022, 13.6 billion tons of goods were transported on EU roads. This means that three-quarters of goods in the EU are still transported by trucks. In Poland, this ratio is even higher. According to the Road Transport Inspection, 86.8% of goods were transported by trucks, while only 10.4% used railways.

Today, rail freight transport loses out to road transport mainly because it doesn't deliver goods "door to door." Supply chain participants are also skeptical about the multiple handling of goods and the associated inconveniences. Therefore, instead of using rail container platforms, containers travel thousands of kilometers on semi-trailer trucks across Europe's roads.

Containers on Tracks

Intermodal transport involving railways carried out by Ecco Rail However, railways have much greater transport capacity than other land transportation means. This is an undeniable advantage, especially when large quantities of goods need to be transported in a single haul.

A single train can carry about 40 containers from point A to point B, several times faster, cheaper, safer, and more environmentally friendly than it would take with 40 trucks.

Requirement: the longest segment of the land transport route should be serviced by railways, while the remaining segments should be efficiently connected by a network of ports and transshipment terminals.

It Will Be Cheaper...

Rail transport, especially container transport over long distances, is significantly cheaper than truck transport.

The average external cost of rail transport per ton-kilometer is more than three times lower, at 0.013 EUR, compared to the average external cost for trucks, which is 0.042 EUR per ton-kilometer.

Of course, currently, for shorter distances, single-modal road transport is often cheaper and more efficient. However, in line with the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy (SSMS) and the European Green Deal, the use of intermodal transport involving railways is expected to be more cost-competitive compared to road transport even for short and medium distances. The European Parliament and Council aim to stimulate the rapid growth of intermodal transport over medium distances by encouraging EU member states to adjust their national policies in this regard and to take necessary regulatory and non-regulatory measures to improve the competitiveness of intermodal transport.

Following this, the proposal for a directive by the European Parliament and Council of November 7, 2023, sets a target for member states to reduce the average cost of intermodal transport by at least 10% within 7 years and requires them to introduce regulations necessary to achieve this goal.

...And More Environmentally Friendly

Environmental care is one of the priorities at Ecco Rail It is estimated that this solution will reduce negative environmental impacts by at least 40% compared to operations solely carried out by trucks on routes between the same starting and ending points. Railways are much more energy-efficient than other means of transport, especially when locomotives are powered by electricity from overhead lines. It's enough to say that an average truck, using a traditional diesel engine, emits around 6 to 10 kilograms of CO2 per kilometer traveled.

In the context of the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy (SSMS) and the European Green Deal, both Poland and the entire European Union expect a significant portion of the 75% of land transport to shift to railways, and the amount of goods transported by rail is expected to double by 2050. Railways account for only 0.4% of the EU's greenhouse gas emissions from transport, and rail transport is responsible for only 1.9% of EU energy consumption.

As stated in the proposal for a directive* by the European Commission and the Council of November 7, 2023, on support frameworks for intermodal freight transport in the European Union, concerning combining modes of transport for sustainable development, combined road transport with rail and maritime transport should generate fewer emissions because:

"intermodal transport using railways, which involves handling road sections at the beginning and/or end of operations, combines the better environmental and energy efficiency of non-road transport modes with the availability and flexibility of road transport."

As Adina Vălean, Commissioner for Transport, argues: "Combining goods transport using trucks with other, more sustainable modes of transport, such as barges, maritime shipping, or trains, will reduce external transport costs and optimize the use of the transport network for the benefit of citizens and the economy."

Intermodal Transport Involving Railways Only

The modern world requires efficient, sustainable, and innovative solutions in freight transport. In this context, intermodal transport plays a crucial role. It integrates various means of transport into a harmonious and economical whole. This modern model has a significant impact on both environmental protection and the costs of transporting goods. In the era of striving for sustainable development and reducing the impact of transport on the climate, the development of intermodally understood as the transport of a unit load, such as a container, using a combination of trucks, trains, barges, ships, or airplanes, becomes a strategic goal that will contribute to both environmental protection and economic efficiency.

*The directive on intermodal transport is part of the legislative package "Greening Freight Transport," which aims to accelerate the decarbonization of freight transport.

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