Since the Google Cars are in the world everyone is talking about the hyped topic autonomous driving. What does it mean for the future of rail freight? Can the European Commission archive the engaged goals to increase 30% of road freight over 300 km to modes such as rail or waterborne transport by 2030, and more than 50% by 2050?
For sure there is room for improvement of rail freight in the 27 EU countries, only 17% of freight transport using the rail way in comparison USA using 41% and China using 45%.
But the biggest competitor of the rail operators are the road. Currently the oil price is low, the CO2 emission certificates are very cheap, but the human resources for freight transport on the road are quite high, the toll fee for highways and the legal rest periods for drivers make the rail still attractive. Although for the combined transport are much more complex and in-transparent.
The latest European Truck Platooning Challenge shows Europe road forwarders and truck industry preparing a 5 years roadmap to solve the open technical and regulatory problems.
The autononmous drive solve the problem of the road of high labor cost and the rest periods and reduce 15% of CO2 and cost of gasoline. But in other hand the 9 European network corridors are already running on the load limit on the road side. Germany already recognized this the trend and invest 2,7 Billion € to extend existing highways in important corridors.
That also means in 5-10 years the freight revenue in the combined transport will be reduced and not as planned increased by 30%, because many basics need to be solved to make the rail attractive and competitive:
- public accessible information about terminals, tracks, time schedules
- transparent price structure
- easy to use online marketplaces to use free capacituies
- interoperable and autonomous locomotives
- reduce the cost and time in the terminals with new freight cars e.g. Binder Schienentieflader
- European Truck Platooning
- A fleet of trucks just drove themselves across Europe
- FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS IN INTERMODAL TRANSPORT (UIRR)
- Shift2Rail IP5 – Technologies for Sustainable & Attractive European Rail Freight
- Infrastructure – TEN-T – Connecting Europe