The project belongs to the Umbrella Action 'LOGCHAIN' in the EUREKA network. As a result of the integration of Eastern European states into the European Union an increase of goods, traffic and volume between the Eastern and Western part of Europe is expected so it is necessary to find efficient and sustainable transport solutions. Establishing a productive infrastructure in all transportation systems is a basis for this.
At the Crete Conference in 1994 European Governments decided on a multinational transportation network called 'PAN-corridors-network' connecting Eastern and Western Europe. Ten road and railway corridors are the result of this conference. One of them is the PAN-1 corridor from Helsinki in Finland over Talinn, Riga and Kaunas to Warsaw in Poland with a connection from Riga over Kalinigrad to Gdansk. It is intended to improve the railway and road connection between these cities. This transportation link is very important for the three Baltic Republics in terms of their integration into the European economy. If the transport infrastructure can be brought to a high level, exchange of goods will become much simpler. The quality of the railway infrastructure in Poland and Lithuania is bad. Low top speed, one track connections and old, inefficient security systems mean that railway companies provide their customers with bad services.
In addition, there is the problem of different rail gauges in Poland and Lithuania. This junction is at the border between the two states. Traditionally, goods have to be reloaded or repumped. In general it can be said that these processes are lengthy and many workers are involved. It is difficult to fulfil customer demands. For this reason, some institutions in Europe have developed an automatic rail gauge change system. This technology involves special goods wagons going along a short track changing the width of the wheel set automatically so customers benefit from faster and more reliable services. The technology is in operation. Currently many operating tests are being carried out at the Polish-Lithuanian border. However, the question is whether this technology is economic or not. This study hopes to provide an answer as to the advantage/disadvantage of investment in such technology.
The aims of the study are the following:
1. Micro-economical analysis, evaluation and estimation of the realisation of automatic rail gauge change systems:
a) necessary investments (infrastructure, special freight cars);
b) operating costs;
c) possibilities to improve services of railway companies (i.e. time, quality, security);
d) effects on revenue (due to changes in price and demand);
2. Determine macro-economical effects in regional and European dimensions:
a) differences in labour force;
b) changes in attractiveness of the border region;
3. Determine effects on modal split and environment:
a) analyse changes in the market-share of railway;
b) ecological effects as a results of changes in market shares;
4. Generate a decision-support model for transferring the results to connections anywhere in the world.
The automatic rail gauge change system is a very innovative system. This technology was developed by railway companies in cooperation with the rail vehicle industry over the last few years, because traditional gauge change systems suffer from many disadvantages in the competitive transport market between East and West.
Some expected advantages of the new system are (i.e.):
1. Faster gauge change process (just a few minutes per train);
2. Low expenditure;
3. Less damage to goods and wagons.
On the other hand, the new technology suffers from some disadvantages (e.g.):
1. High investment costs, especially for goods wagons;
2. higher operating costs for goods wagons.
If the study results in a positive outcome in investment terms, this technology will be developed further. Worldwide there are many junctions between different track gauges. Not only at the Polish-Lithuanian border but also at the Polish-White Russian border, the Polish-Ukraine border and the border between France and Spain are examples of different rail gauges. The problem is the same on other continents. There's a case for saying that the automatic railway gauge technology could provide a solution at borders.