Extreme Weather Impacts on Freight Railways in Europe

Extreme Weather Impacts on Freight Railways in Europe


J Ludvigsen, R Klaboe, Institute of Transport Economics, NO


Extreme weather research showed poor preparedness in freight transport. Lean production, outsourcing ,non-useful meteo-information were reasons for that. Better weather risk management requires higher in-house resources and meteo-usability.


Research into extreme weather impacts on freight transport, logistics and infrastructure providers in Europe showed lack of managerial preparedness for nature-related adversities. One reason could stem from the companies' perpetual pursuit of cost cutting, lean production methods and outsourcing of strategic business operations. However, another important factor may be that the meteo-information that managers receive on impending bad weather events is not useful for assessment of risk of damage and needs for reserve inventory. The study has established that penalties for the lack of preparedness were harsh. Severe winter weather did not only disrupt current service provision, but became of a magnitude that threatened both the present and the long-term business prospects for rail freight carriers. Rail infrastructure shutdowns in Poland, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland caused large losses of rail freight tonnage to road hauliers. Analyses of freight trains traffic in Finland during 2008-2010 revealed that 60 percent of all arrival delays were attributed to bad weather. This in turn threatened competitive sustainability of rail vs. truck in Europe. Yet, statistical analyses of relationships between meteo-information and weather-related freight train delays disclosed large mismatch between the quality of meteo-data and operators' needs for info on probability for traffic disruptions. Improvement of preparedness through enhanced risk management would thus require higher level of in-house strategic reserves but also higher usability of meteo-forecasts. The paper spells out several strategies for how these two impediments could be overcome through disaster risk management programmes and tailoring of meteo-data to different users in European freight transport, logistics and infrastructure provision industries.


Association for European Transport