Rail Freight

The 2011 White Paper aims for 30% of road freight over 300 km to be shifted to rail or waterborne transport by 2030, and more than 50% by 2050. Despite such targets and efforts being made, rail’s share of freight has actually declined slightly since 2011. Currently, a lot of companies choose to transport goods by more polluting modes of transport for price and flexibility reasons. Rail has costs that are unique to the mode, as well as logistic complexities that don’t exist for road transport. However, there exists the potential for more goods to be transported by rail.

T&E wants as much freight as possible to be transported by rail. In 2015, T&E developed an on-going platform that engages with a diverse group of stakeholders in rail freight to develop ways for rail to increase their share of freight transport. This platform is part of a larger project that looks at low-carbon freight transport. Like passenger rail, T&E want freight trains to become more customer-orientated and sustainable so that they become more successful.

Rail freight blog

T&E have been managing a rail freight platform since 2015. This platform has provided us with the opportunity to meet with key stakeholders in rail and organise workshops to discuss some of the main setbacks to modal shift. The blog below is the first in a series that will outline what we have learned about why rail freight is not growing in Europe at the rate needed. This series of blogs will also offer some suggestions on how policymakers can play a bigger role in supporting modal shift as a means to decarbonise transport.

The customer is always right

Anyone can call a road haulage company and have a truck at their door in a few hours. The same is obviously not possible with rail. Rail is more complex than road transport as there are more actors involved with further advanced planning required. Road transport is flexible and simple. Railway advocates should not shy away from this market reality as it is vital as accepting it is key to addressing the disparity. Ultimately it is the shipper and freight forwarder (ie, the customer) who determines what mode to use, so we need to make it so that they see rail as an attractive alternative to road. Read more