Booming Rail Freight Market and Collapsing Road Traffic. What Can the Regions Do?

Booming Rail Freight Market and Collapsing Road Traffic. What Can the Regions Do?


P Endemann, Planning Authority for Greater Frankfurt, DE


The situation of the national freight market is described, followed by an outline of the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main Region. The results from a 180 shipper survey are used to visualise the steps to be pursued to increase rail freight volumes in the region.


Overall Freight Context in Germany
The rail sector in Germany was considerably affected by the MORA C programme of the German Railways freight branch in 2001 when almost every fourth local freight terminal in the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main Region had been run out of service. As rail freight is not subsidised in Germany and potential alternatives were not available, intervention was difficult. Nonetheless, rail freight demand has increased steadily in Germany since 1999. At the European and national level, the framework favours rail freight. Beside the promotion of funding the development of new and the conservation of existing rail infrastructures, the open market with a considerable increase in the number of rail freight companies is one key to success. On the other hand, the road freight sector has been target of several restricting measures such as the digital tachograph, new regulation on driving times, rest and break periods (EC No 561/2006) and the German motorway charging scheme for heavy good vehicles.

Boosting rail freight? A regional issue?
Formed in 2001, the Planungsverband Ballungsraum Frankfurt/Rhein-Main is the planning authority for a polycentric region with 2.18 Mio. inhabitants and 75 municipalities of which the City of Frankfurt (pop. 676,000) is the largest one. In response to EU legislation and given the context described above, the Planungsverband pursues a strategy of mitigating the impacts from heavy goods vehicles generating noise and air pollution in the municipalities of the area. Consequently, it is of interest for a regional government body to identify the options for increasing rail freight volumes and the possible barriers.

Survey on shipping companies
In 2006, the Planungsverband and two partners commissioned a study with the following objectives:
? estimate the number of existing and potential rail freight volumes and bundling effects
? enhance knowledge on temporal and logistical requirements
? evaluate the existence of possible barriers and how to overcome them
? gathering information among the shippers on the existing framework of rail funding programmes, rail access infrastructure and their knowledge of the supply side

The survey is based on personal and telephone interviews with relevant key persons of 180 shipping companies within the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main Region.
The results show a considerable number of shiftable volumes allowing a reduction of some 50,000 lorry trips annually. Beside pricing structures and specific logistic requirements from either the sender or the receiver side in the supply chain, lack of rail access is one major barrier to overcome. Furthermore, only few companies were aware of funding programmes to support the installation or the renewal of sidings. According to their responses, shippers showed less consciousness regarding the variety of rail operators competing at the national market. Moreover, a considerable number was affected by the closure of rail service by the MORA C programme of the German Cargo in 2001. The shippers felt that rail operators rarely try to acquire new clients.

Rail Freight Promoting Strategy
Given the results of the study, the following products, services and communication platforms have been developed in order to fill the knowledge gaps and improve the current context.

? Joint Rail Accessibility and Industrial Area Map aiming at ensuring/increasing the occupancy rate of sidings, identifying rail-oriented industrial usage potentials
? Guidelines to provide local authorities and shippers with information on the (advantages of rail freight) market, freight, legal framework, development/preservation of sidings, rail funding programmes
? Moderation of negotiations bringing together shippers and rail operators
? Rhine-Main rail freight committee consisting of experts from the governments, the chambers of commerce and consultancies who agree on actions and provide knowledge.
? Internet platform, professional articles, press releases
? Workshops with stakeholders

The activities led to an increase in awareness among the different stakeholders, higher press coverage and better knowledge. Some successful examples of shifted volumes from road to rail are the most tangible outcome showing that the Planungsverband is on the right track.

Added Value for other European Countries
Though the conditions of the open rail market suggest higher levels of rail freight there are still many efforts necessary for bridging the gap between demanders and suppliers. Given the small size of many shippers and rail operators, marketing is often difficult to realise. The papers nonetheless visualises that the open market reveals potentials and that certain investments in improving the knowledge contributes to improve the situation as an indispensable ingredient.


Association for European Transport