The existing rail siding infrastructure is of major importance for the share of cargo that is transported by rail. The results from the current study hence verify other studies which state that the amount of cargo transported by rail is greatly reduced if a direct rail connection is absent at both end points. The number of wagon loads transported by rail where industrial tracks are missing at either of the end points are currently minimal. In the final report from the Swedish Railway Commission (SOU 2003:104) it is pointed out that industrial rail tracks have been removed when the rail operations have come to an end. The number of industrial tracks in Sweden was reduced by half, from 1,200 to 600, between the years 1990 to 2000 (Nelldal et al, 2005). The owners of sidings such as these may be private companies, municipalities or the State through the National Rail Administration. The latter however has the comprehensive responsibility for the development of the rail sector in Sweden.
The objective of the project was to assess the economic and practical value of rail sidings for companies as well as society. Objectives included economic and quantitative assessments of a number of cases where sidings had recently been constructed or disused. Cost benefit assessments as well as operative considerations for the companies using the tracks were carried out to find out benefits for the latter as well as for society. Furthermore, barriers against a more rational use of rail transport using rail sidings were analysed by interviews with people from companies and municipalities owning rail sidings.
The project was based on qualitative interviews with 14 municipalities and 21 companies. Cost- benefit analyses was made for nine of the interviewed companies that were considered especially interesting since new tracks had been constructed or were at risk of being dismantled. Calculation values from ASEK (the most recent Review of methods and calculation values of cost benefit analyses in the transport area from the Swedish Institute for Transport and Communications Analysis) were used.
The interviews with transport managers at companies using rail sidings were made to find out their motives for using rail transport in general and sidings especially. Investments and/or maintenance costs were collected from companies and infrastructure managers. Finally, cost/benefit assessments were made of the existing rail transport concepts and these were compared to hypothetical corresponding road transport concepts.
External costs were included to find out total benefits for society. The aim was to find out the benefits for the companies and possible benefits for society that rail transport was used instead of road. The methodology used current figures for transport volumes and as such it only accounted for the situation at the very present.
The study was based on qualitative interviews with 14 municipalities and 21 companies. Cost-benefit analyses was made for nine of the interviewed companies that were considered especially interesting since new tracks had been constructed or were at risk of being dismantled.
The results from the interviews and the calculations indicate a complex picture to some extent. There is a relatively great interest among the studied municipalities for rail sidings, especially among those who have important transport demanding companies or those who have an ambition to attract storage and logistics business. There is a certain difference however between different municipalities when it comes to fees and charges for using the infrastructure, where some of them generously cover expenses for new track connections as well as operational and maintenance costs for the tracks. On the other hand there are other such “logistics municipalities” where companies themselves have to pay for these investments and services.
It is mainly companies with transport of heavy goods in large quantities that have invested in tracks of their own and that have the most benefit from these tracks. But some of the companies interviewed motivated the use of rail with environmental or image-related reasons. Even practical reasons were sometimes referred to. A significant majority of the companies stressed the importance of having the option to use direct track connection to be able to consider rail transport at all.
Several companies have in the interviews claimed that they experience a lack of general and distinct guidelines concerning investment in industrial tracks. There are obscurities concerning when the National Rail Administration can co-finance projects and what it takes to motivate investments in tracks that are managed by the authority. One important conclusion that can be drawn from these circumstances is that the National Rail Administration should be given an important role as an expert institution that municipalities and companies can turn to in order to obtain advice concerning investment in as well as operation and maintenance of rail sidings.