Long Term Forecasts of Rail Freight Transport in the Netherlands Up to 2040

Long Term Forecasts of Rail Freight Transport in the Netherlands Up to 2040


J van Meijeren, TNO Delft, NL ; F Hofker, R Demmers, ProRail, NL


A unique forecasting methodology combining modelling with consultation of stakeholders in the rail freight market concerning future developments in order to make forecasts - up to 2040 - of rail freight transport in/through the Netherlands.


ProRail ? the Dutch rail infrastructure manager ? needs forecasts of rail freight transport to motivate investments in rail infrastructure. ProRail had available a forecast of rail freight transport up to 2020 but this forecast did not incorporate recent developments. In addition, ProRail did not have a forecast for the period 2020 ? 2040 at its disposal. However, with questions increasingly being raised about rail freight developments in the period after 2020, ProRail felt more and more the need for new long term forecasts up to 2040 of rail freight transport within, to, from and through the Netherlands. Therefore, TNO ? Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research ? was asked to draw up scenarios and to make new forecasts for rail freight transport for 2020 ? 2040.

Scenarios were created for the key uncertainties: socio-economic trends and transport market trends (including transport policy). Ultimately three scenarios were detailed in which the key uncertainties were combined in the following way:
- Low socio-economic growth, modest transport market development;
- Modest socio-economic growth, modest transport market development;
- High socio-economic growth, far-reaching transport market development.
The scenarios were coupled to the projected years 2020, 2030 and 2040 and incorporated several specific uncertainties, namely: character of the base year, coal transport trends, container transport trends, liberalisation of rail transport to Belgium and France, trends in transhipment without transfer, distribution of freight flows in Rotterdam dock basins, new and extended container terminals.

Methodology: producing forecasts by combining modelling results and expected developments by stakeholders in the rail freight market
TNO and ProRail worked together on detailing the scenarios. This was complemented by collaboration and assessment in workshops with experts from ProRail, the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management (Rail Transport Inspectorate), a logistic service provider and the Rotterdam Port Authority. The scenarios were calculated using the TRANS-TOOLS model (a European transport model developed for the European Commission ? FP6 project ? to describe the current and future flow of freight and passenger transport in Europe). Application of a European model was a conscious choice given that in the Netherlands rail freight is mainly internationally oriented. Furthermore, European model scenarios allow European insights into the development of various uncertainties. The TRANS-TOOLS modelling results were input for discussions with the expert group. The goal of these discussions was to validate the modelling results, to identify specific developments in the rail freight market that cannot be incorporated in a transport model, to identify developments that are expected by stakeholders in the rail freight transport market that should be included in long term forecasts and to determine what modifications should be applied to the modelling results. In a next step, many other stakeholders (regional government, port authorities, rail operators, etc.) have reviewed the work by reading the draft report and providing comments and delivering additional detailed information concerning expected future developments. This assessment round led to several modifications being made to the scenarios, after which the final forecasts were processed. Finally, the forecasts are the result of a combination of long term modelling results based on a European trend scenario and of expected developments by stakeholders in the rail freight transport market. This is a unique approach, in many cases forecasts are either based on modelling results (top-down) or based on expectations from stakeholders in the freight market (bottom-up), but not on a combination of both.

Three pictures emerge
In the lowest growth scenario the rail freight flows for the entire Netherlands (within, to, from and through) range between 66 and 81 million tonnes in the period 2020 ? 2040. In the scenario of modest growth the freight flows rage from 78 to 110 million tonnes in the same period while the highest growth scenario shows a range of 99 to 162 million tonnes.

Further application of the results
These results will be used by ProRail to confront the available rail infrastructure with the future rail freight demand. This way, future infrastructure bottlenecks will be identified and action plans will be developed to solve and prevent these bottlenecks. Finally, the outcomes are used to motivate investments in rail infrastructure.


Association for European Transport