The development of rail freight transport corridors for an improved competitiveness in this market segment is a well-established point on the European Union’s agenda. These corridors are developed as multilateral initiatives by the countries involved in the process and the purpose of their establishment consists in improving access conditions and the quality of rail freight transport.
Freight-dedicated rail corridors are being developed in the context of an economic downturn which imposed budgetary constraints to several national governments related to investment plans. This situation stresses the need to coordinate investments to create a unified transport system along international transport corridors to all parties involved.
Freight transport corridors should be conceived so as to guarantee the continuity along corridors by providing the necessary interconnections between the different existing railway infrastructures. This is how the railway infrastructure can be a source of recovery for the rail freight transport which has suffered a period of decline in the past couple of years, as well as for the economic growth of the countries crossed by those corridors.
Corridors can be developed according to market demands only with full integration of railway undertakings in the decision-making process, since they are the ones dealing with rail freight customers.
Moreover, it is only fair that railway undertakings are involved in decisions which will directly affect their operations and, beyond that, their profit margin in an open market.
During the Global Rail Freight Conference jointly organised by UIC and the Russian Railways, Zoltán Kazatsay, Deputy Director General DG Move (European Commission) stated that “50% of the European rail freight is international and this figure will increase in the forthcoming years. Besides, rail freight has a worldwide role to play to ensure sustainable mobility and decarbonise the transport sector. In Europe, rail freight still suffers from a lack of interoperability, national disparities and geographical fragmentation and administrative burden, in particular for border crossing”.
“In order to mobilise energies around rail freight infrastructure development, real political will, in particular strong international coordination on infrastructure capacity improvement, is now needed at corridor level”, said CER Vice-Chairman and Deputy CEO of the private railway company Veolia, Antoine Hurel.
Rail freight has successfully developed in countries that have invested in rail, either by means of direct financing or low infrastructure charges. This is the basic requirement to foster competition in the railway market and to boost the development of rail freight. In fact, the corridor Rotterdam-Genoa is defining for the way in which a freight corridor should function.
30% of the road freight transport on distances over 300 km should be transferred to other transport modes by 2030, such as railway transport or inland waterways transport; this percent should exceed 50% by 2050 with the help of efficient and eco-friendly freight corridors. To meet this objective, the development of an appropriate infrastructure is absolutely necessary.
For the economic development that Europe needs and relies on for maintaining its competitiveness against third economic entities that grow stronger every day, the establishment of multimodal freight corridors within “the main transport network” has a strategic importance in synchronizing investments and infrastructure works and in supporting efficient, innovating and multimodal transport services, including rail transport services on medium and long distances.
“Achieving continuity along the corridors will be a time-consuming process. The users of the corridors – which already act on a European transport market where borders have largely disappeared – will for sure be a driving force in this process. The establishment of the Rail Freight corridors lays the ground and creates a framework to achieve this continuity; now it is up to the stakeholders to implement it – in the interest of rail freight the ambitions and the commitment should be high”, stated Keir Fitch.