Polish rail freight: more carriers and growing preference for rail

Between 2013-2020 Poland ranked second in European countries with the most issued licences for rail freight carriers. Following Germany, which comes first, Poland issued 110 permits for the carriage of goods during this period, with 11 issued during 2020. The Polish Office of Rail Transport shared these numbers accompanied by a study concerning the country’s rail market trends.

According to the study’s findings, new carriers enter the rail market with different motives but unanimously acknowledge its contribution to their business growth. Nevertheless, the number of businesses turning to rail hasn’t seized to surprise the Polish authorities.

“The growing number of rail carriers in Poland in recent years is a phenomenon which we decided to study closer. Some of these companies saw an opportunity in market niches, i.e. transporting goods on selected routes or transporting specific commodity groups. Other companies decided to improve logistics processes, mainly distribution of their products or suppling raw materials necessary for their production”, said Ignacy Góra, President of the Office of Rail Transport.

Ignacy Gora, President of the Polish Office for Rail Transportation

Survey report

It is essential to mention that the survey was conducted only among rail carriers who are recent market entrees. Out of all interviewed companies, 67 per cent answered that their dominant activity focuses on the railway. From them, more than 57 per cent said that their entry into the rail market derives from their preexisting experience in the industry. On the other hand, 35,7 per cent got attracted to rail due to its technical resources and the opportunities it offers in general.

The rest of the surveyed companies, accounting for 33 per cent, stated that rail transport was not their primary activity. However, 45 per cent of them decided to turn to rail transport in an attempt to expand their activities and optimise their supply chains.

Hurdles and the future of rail

Regarding rail carriers’ operation and the problematic situations they face, more than half of the companies (56 per cent) mentioned competition with road haulage as their primary concern. Simultaneously, reduced rail freight capacities, costly infrastructure and deficit staffing are equally critical issues that need resolution. Furthermore, many companies mentioned the sector’s regulations and the high costs of tractioning energy as the central barriers they face. Consequently, there is also a need for revising existing policies and adapting them to modern standards that result from the market’s actual needs.

Despite all the hurdles, though, the new carriers see their future in the rail market positively. Specifically, almost half of the surveyed companies (56 per cent) predicted that the rail freight market will grow, while the rest (40 per cent) seem to believe that it will remain at its current levels. Finally, only 4 per cent of the companies expect that the rail market’s share will drop.

RailFreight Summit Poland

Do you want to hear more about rail freight in Poland? From On 31 May and 1 & 2 June 2021the rail freight industry gathers at the fourth edition of the RailFreight Summit Poland. This edition takes place in city of Łódź. The programme committee is currently preparing an interesting, international programme with experts that will share their knowledge on transport links between east and west. Registration will open soon.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is editor of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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