Rail freight transportation is expected to play a significant role in a sustainable European transport system. Strong and steady growth of multi-modal traffic in recent years – usually with trucks taking care for local pick-up and delivery, and rail providing the long haul transportation part – should not distract from the fact that today Single Wagonload (SWL) transportation still plays a major role in rail business. A wellorganised rail freight network provides competitive market solutions and is a transportation backbone for numerous industries. The SWL transportation is generally provided by state owned railway undertakings (RU). As a consequence, border-crossing transport is often suffering from necessary hand-over processes between railways. Since expensive production systems for SWL have prompted some railways to significantly reduce their networks or to even give up services, the remaining railways are faced with reduced international volumes – the critical mass to run a single wagon network is endangered again, productivity goes down while system costs are exploding and accelerating the down-turn spiral. In February 2010 seven major European RU have founded the Xrail alliance, a production initiative to streamline international transportation processes, to create and coordinate common services in order to increase transparency, reliability for the customer and to speed up the offer process. In December 2010 SBB Cargo and the Xrail initiative were honoured with the Swiss Logistics Award for their innovative rail solution. This article examines the impact of current international cooperation enhanced by Xrail on the competitiveness of the SWL system and analyses potential additional benefits of capacity management. The authors define the systemic challenges of seamless cross-border transportation of SWL and specify the impact on the international SWL product and the related production efficiency. Processes and tools to tackle the challenges as well as related success factors are elaborated in detail.
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