THIS COLLECTION of essays by leading figures in Europe’s rail freight industry was compiled by the Community of European Railways & Infrastructure Companies to mark the opening of the EU’s rail freight market to competition from January 1 2007.
An overview by Christoph Wolff of McKinsey & Co’s Rail & Urban Transit Practice looks at different business and ownership models, assesses the challenges facing rail freight operators and suggests ways in which companies can prepare for the future.
A section on the politics of rail freight tackles regulation, taxation and investment; this includes chapters on infrastructure charging (Chris Nash), the ERTMS corridors (Karel Vinck) and the long-term prospects for Russia’s railways (Vladimir Yakunin). The second section on business and customer service has five chapters, four of them authored by operators including Antoine Hurel of Veolia Transport and Klaus Kremper of Railion Deutschland. EWS Planning Director Graham Smith writes that there is a ‘massive’ opportunity for rail freight in Europe, which he says stems from globalisation and the demand for sustainability which gives customers ‘environmental bragging rights’. In the search to give rail freight customers more advantages, he cites ‘the ability to distort access charges’ as ‘one of the primary weaknesses of the rail system’ whereas the charges could be ‘a lever to create success’.
He suggests that the industry should focus on operating longer trains, increasing the loading gauge and raising axleloads towards the North American norm of 36 tonnes. Smith also describes the ‘inexorable drive to introduce ERTMS with scant regard for the ability of operators to fund changes’ as ‘wholly unacceptable’. A final section deals with innovation and technology.
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