Project objectives

BRAIN-TRAINS’ main goal is to develop a blue print establishing the detailed criteria and conditions for developing an innovative international intermodal network in Belgium, as part of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). The blue print targets an increase in the share of intermodal transport in the European Union transport market. BRAIN-TRAINS is achieving this objective by innovative and interdisciplinary research and development, combined with practical testing via future development scenarios, dealing mainly with five research domains (operational cost modeling, socio-economic impact analysis, environmental impact assessment, regulatory framework testing, and governance framework development. As to the scientific results, BRAIN-TRAINS adds on to existing knowledge by developing or refining methods and techniques that till present were left unexploited, and that are applicable not only in the BRAIN-TRAINS topic, but also in other transport and wider economic fields relevant to the Belgian Federal government, and internationally in other contexts. Existing and easily to be generated data sets are used, and developed models and instruments for analysis are made available.

With respect to policy relevance, BRAIN-TRAINS sets its actions and hence, ultimately, its impact in the context of the developing European logistics perspective and the role that intermodal transport can play in that development. The project involves industry partners, stakeholder impact assessment, policy review and community-building to ensure positive outcomes and impacts. Following policy-relevant research results are presented at the end of the project:

  • a framework strategy for freight logistics in Belgium;
  • comprehensive strategies for intermodal transport, with emphasis on international connections;
  • co-modal transport solutions, and to ensure a balanced approach to land-use planning;
  • investment options in new or improved infrastructure and equipment to eliminate bottlenecks;
  • maximization of all available sources of financing from European sources and from public-private partnerships via common implementation initiatives;
  • adjustments to avoid distortion of competition.

Optimal capacities and instruments for transition management and governance of the federal government in relation with other governments, in terms of coordination and policy integration.

From a policy point of view towards the  market, three public government strategies are possible, but considered as ‘extreme’ ones. They need qualification and refinement with sector needs, market development, environmental and social challenges, etc.

  • a situation of free market, with no intervention from the government, where transportation and intermodal operators minimize their direct costs of operation
  • a situation where intermodal terminal operators benefit from a subsidy to reduce their costs and transportation operators have an incentive to ship their goods by rail or inland waterways. The handling subsidies are only granted to flows shipped between terminals (or ports) located in Belgium, while the rail transportation subsidy can be given according to the distance travelled inside Belgium,
  • a situation in line with EU policies that aim at internalizing externalities of freight transportation to strengthen the competitiveness of intermodal transportation.

The research provides insight into which of these is most recommended.

Examples of integrated policy initiatives are rather scarce, like the greening of road transport taxation (involved the ministries of mobility and the fiscal administration); the development of green inland navigation engines (involved the ministries of mobility and of environment and energy), and the White Paper Space Flanders, more specifically the item ‘logistics’ (involving the ministries of mobility and spatial planning). Internalization of costs that transport imposes on society is also be a key element in future EU policies.

In terms of protection of knowledge and subsequent Individual Property Rights, each partner is bound by the terms and conditions of the BELSPO contractual rules. Knowledge shall be the property of the partner generating it. The partners in the consortium are experienced organisations, with a vested interest in adopting a professional IPR strategy. All results and models of significance are secured by appropriate intellectual property protection and exploitation methods.