4th Research Seminar on Railway Policy

4th Research Seminar on Railway Policy

Program and agenda (pdf 179KB)

Karlsruhe – 11 March 2016

Venue: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

Rail Freight: the Thwarted Ambitions of EU


The objectives of the European Union for rail freight are clearly expressed in successive White Papers, particularly the one published in 2011. Objective 3 states: “30% of road freight over 300 km should shift to other modes such as rail or waterborne transport by 2030, and more than 50% by 2050” (European Commission, White Paper, 2011). This expected modal shift, mainly in favour of rail transport, reflects a desire to reverse past trends, in which road transport has become very dominant. In order for this ambition to amount to more than wishful thinking, the EU has sought to develop intra-modal competition to revitalise this sector.

However, in light of the unrelenting strong intermodal competition, mainly from road transport, one cannot help but question the European Union’s objectives. To what extent will rail freight transport be able to expand its relevance?

The very long-term trends concerning the evolution of shippers’ demand and the nature of transported goods always worked, and still work, against rail freight. The newer trend of globalisation invigorated rail freight to some extent, since new long-distance transport routes have developed that start from the large ports of intercontinental trade. On the other hand, rail freight remains technologically frozen at a state that was developed about a hundred years ago (symbolised, for example, by the still prevalent hand-couplings) while the development of road trucks seems to keep pace with the speed of technology of the overall economy. The economic crises after 2008 hit all modes of freight transport, maybe the road even a bit more than the rails. Will rail freight be able to develop new concepts and come out of the crises with a vision of growth?

These topics will be addressed in the 4th TransportNet Railway Seminar “Rail Freight: the Thwarted Ambitions of EU” on March 11, 2016, in Karlsruhe. Presentations will be given by practitioners as well as academics, with ensuing discussions by all participants. A draft program follows on the next page. The seminar is organized by Prof. Kay Mitusch (Karlsruher Institut für Technologie, KIT), Prof. Yves Crozet (University of Lyon), and Prof Thierry Vanelslander (University of Antwerp).

Registration deadline  2nd March 2016.