This paper presents a rail freight forecast for the EU27 for the period up to 2050.
Rail freight’s market share of the transport sector in Europe has been falling or remained stagnant since 1970. In contrast, the share of road freight has been increasing. As rail freight transport is generally considered an environmentally friendly option, various measures have been implemented for more than two decades, at national and European level, to encourage a modal shift from road to rail. In the latest EU Transport White paper policy paper of 2011, an optimistic target is set for greater use of rail freight transport, in both the near and the longer term future. Specifically: a modal shift, from road to rail, and waterway transport, of 30 % by 2030 and 50 % by 2050 - for distances greater than 300 km.
With the aforesaid policy objectives, the current research examines the possible effects of these aims in terms of future levels of rail freight demand. This research relies heavily upon the EU TRANS-TOOLS modelling tool and explores three scenarios. A Reference scenario - with no significant change to current rail freight policy, infrastructure and existing trends is considered alongside two White Paper scenarios (High and Low) which take more optimistic views of the white paper policy objectives.
The study finds that the Reference and White Paper Low scenarios demonstrate similar results in terms of growth and modal split. In stark contrast, the White paper High scenario results show that demand for rail freight services almost doubles compared to the Reference values.
The rail sector is expected to attract new commodities from road transport such as foodstuffs and building and transport materials. To meet this demand, the rail industry - including operators, infrastructure managers and governments - will have to invest in technologies, infrastructure and terminals with a view to significantly increasing productivity against current levels.