Metranas intermodal terminal in Prague, source: Metrans

Combined transport at record height in 2018

The number of consignments transported using combined transport reached a historic high of 8.6 million TEU in 2018. This constituted an increase of almost 5 per cent compared to the year before. The growth was partly attributable to one-off sectoral consolidation and partly to organic growth. This was concluded in the UIRR Report 2018-19, adopted during the General Assembly of the interest group held on 16 May.

The UIRR collected intermodal performance statistics from 39 members across 18 European countries. Besides the figures, it also pictured the challenges for the combined transport setcor and defined the factors that will determine the coming years.

Combined Transport Directive

Combined Transport is best positioned to fill environmentally sustainable (electric-powered) freight trains by shifting to the rail the cargo presently carried in long-distance trucks. However, this potential will not be achieved without the progressive amendment of the Combined Transport Directive, the lobby group believes.

The legislative piece is an EU instrument that aims to reduce the negative side-effects of goods transport on the environment and on society by supporting the shift from long distance road transport to long distance rail, inland waterways and maritime transport through economic incentives. However, stemming from 1992 without any prior amendment, the legislative piece is outdated and unlikely to realise the objected modal shift. The amended Directive should provide an enhanced harmonised European regulatory framework for operating this typically border-crossing transport service.

Political talks

The day before the General Assembly UIRR members held an extensive workshop with European Commission officials from DG MOVE to discuss the challenges that lie ahead. They discussed the measures needed to improve the quality performance of rail freight, to create a fair, mode-neutral regulatory environment and to support the enhancement of Combined Transport during the coming 2019-2024 legislative period.

DG MOVE Deputy Director General Maja Bakran Marcich, Land Transport Director Elisabeth Werner and Head of Unit for the Single European Railway Area, Maurizio Castelletti have offered their visions and solutions, while also listening to the participating sector representatives.

New members

UIRR, as the association of European intermodal transport, developed its membership by adding three new members – Metrans, VIIA and WienCont, four new technology partners – Combipass, GATX Europe, Railwatch and Wielton, and signing MoUs with two national peer associations – the Rail Freight Group of the UK and USER of Romania, during 2018.

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Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is editor of, online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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