The future of rail freight in Europe
The 3rd European Rail Freight Day, co-organised by the European Commission and RailNetEurope (RNE), took place 9 December in Vienna. The Rail Freight Day, which was attended by over 200 participants, provided a fruitful exchange between stakeholders and the Commission on operational issues and interoperability for rail freight, focusing on a customer-oriented development of the Rail Freight Corridors. Matthew Baldwin, the Deputy Director-General for DG MOVE, kicked-off the event by stating that the European rail freight sector faces many challenges, but that the Commission is dedicated and committed to solve these challenges in cooperation with the sector. A crucial question is whether the nine European Rail Freight Corridors are meeting the needs of railway freight operators and the final customers.
The event focused on three major challenges for rail freight in the coming years. The first challenge is how to increase operational efficiency through better information flows, with a special focus on train status information and estimated time of arrival. A solution is to take better advantage of the opportunities offered by the digital developments. The second challenge concerns the design of international timetabling processes and functioning. The current timetable design is over 50 years old, and RailNetEurope (RNE) undertook a complete redesign two years ago, and expects to have the project finalised in 2017. The aim is to develop a timetable that is adapted to the market needs of the rail freight operators while at the same time enabling some operators to request paths earlier than what is possible today. The 3rd challenge addressed the European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS) which is unevenly deployed on the European railway network. In this respect the recently adopted European Deployment Plan on ERTMS was discussed, which contains two milestones: one for 2023 and another one for 2030. Participants will have the opportunity to discuss the progress made regarding the above challenges at the next Rail Freight Day in December 2017.