RO – LA between utility and critics

Arolling highway has both ecological and economical advantages: The freight forwarder saves fuel, toll, time losses due to traffic jams.
Usually, when it comes for RO-LA transport, freight forwar-ders criticise, apart from the cost, the dependency on timetables and the time needed for loading and unloading. Another negative aspect is that a lot of dead weight is carried along, because the entire truck is transported and not just its cargo. An intermediate solution is intermodal freight transport or piggy-back, where only semi-trailers are put on the train and not the tractor itself.
Opinions are thus divergent, but in the railway freight transport market, one of the best solutions is single-wagon transport.
The client will choose single wagon load transportation when he wants to dispatch one or several wagons at the time but does not have enough quantity to fill a full train (block train). Sorting and distributing the goods are essential for a successful single wagon load system and the trains are loaded in switch yards or depots. Logistically speaking, single wagon load transport can be compared with hub and spoke system (all goods are brought together for sorting and then shipped to different directions).
However, the single wagon load transport is not profitable, as the economic downturn has triggered an increase in this type of transport, but it didn’t stimulate the single wagon load’s profitability.
The EU has decided to support this type of transport and works to elaborating a strategy aimed at simplifying the customs control in member states and to level up the bureaucratic and technical procedures in single load transport.
On June 19, during one of the reunions of Rail Forum Europe – “Innovating alternatives for an attractive freight transport”, part of the participants have underlined the advantage of single load transport.
Alexander Hedderich, CEO of DB Schenker Rail, outlined the challenges of the European single wagonload, in terms of cost structure and competition. “Single wagonload is and will be the backbone of DB Schenker Rail’s production system. However, significant cost increases in rail cargo transportation endanger the intermodal competitiveness of rail operators” he said.
Jacques Koch, General Manager for procurement and supply of Arcelor Mittal, described freight transport issues from a steel company’s perspective. Cost competitiveness, reliability, flexibi-lity and sustainability are the main priorities. Comparing different transport alternatives, he concluded that “reliable rail single wagon traffic is fundamental to meet users’ needs and expectations”.
Ferdinand Schmidt, CEO of ÖBB Production and Chairman of Xrail, described the situation in Austria where rail freight has a modal share of about 36%, half of which through single wagonload.
With an annual traffic volume of around 100 billion tonnes/km, single wagon load transport covers half the entire freight transport market in Europe. Such transports represent an important link in the economic chain of many European countries dominated by divided industry and agriculture and reduced scope.

[ by Elena Ilie ]

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