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Market Analysis in Trans-Alpine Freight Transport

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Complete with results
Project Acronym
B4 (NRP 41)
STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Transport mode
Multimodal icon
Transport sectors
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

The NRP 41 was launched by the Federal Council at the end of 1995 to improve the scientific basis on which Switzerland's traffic problems might be solved, taking into account the growing interconnection with Europe, ecological limits, and economic and social needs.


The NRP 41 aimed to become a think-tank for sustainable transport policy.

Each one of the 54 projects belongs to one of the following six modules:

  • A Mobility: Socio-institutional Aspects 
  • B Mobility: Socio-economical Aspects 
  • C Environment: Tools and Models for Impact Assessments 
  • D Political and Economic Strategies and Prerequisites 
  • E Traffic Management: Potentials and Impacts 
  • F Technologies: Potentials and Impacts 
  • M Materials 
  • S Synthesis Projects

The principal aim of the research was to provide basic elements to support decision-making in the field of promotion of combined transport solutions.

To do so, the available evidence on supplier behaviour, determinants of demand and policy have been systematically discussed and complemented with further empirical work. It has been chosen not to focus on combined transport primarily. Its competitiveness can only be understood in the context of available alternatives.

Moreover, we did not consider rail, road and combined transport as three competing transport modes, but as one characteristic of a transport service that has relevance for the service qualities that can be offered on the market for shipments. Doing so, it was intended to identify critical success factors in every part.


This project represents a synthesis of three projects with one common goal: clarify the position of multimodal services in the market for transalpine freight transport.

A first project (IRE – see working paper M7) inquires the conditions on the supply side and more specifically the strategies of relevant actors in order to identify potentials and weak points of combined transport on transalpine links.

The second project (MecoP – see working paper M8) analyses shipper's behaviour with the goal of identifying critical service qualities that could indicate levers for a policy of promoting this kind of services.

Finally, a third project (INFRAS – see working paper M9) evaluates various policies in view of their chances of success.

To properly identify market potentials, the integral consideration of demand, supply, markets and policies seems decisive. At the same time, such an integrated approach represents a significant challenge.

As a consequence, the relationship among the arguments presented in the three parts is not always evident. Nevertheless, the chosen procedure permits to treat the key issue of transport service qualities in a transversal way in all three projects.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
Swiss National Science Foundation SNF
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


This synthesis report summarises the three individual studies on the market for Trans-Alpine goods traffic. It provides a summary of the economic aspects of this highly topical issue of Trans-Alpine goods traffic. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = 'urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office' />


From the point of view of supply (materials Vol. M7), of demand (M8), and possible policy support strategies (M9), the central conclusion is that reliable and punctual deliveries, primarily overnight, are critical for success in this market.


The Summary demonstrates the impact of banning goods traffic at night, and the impact of (premature) closing times of terminals, as well as the potential benefits of faster handling and speeding-up combined transport schemes. Differentiating between the market segments of 'full truck load' (FTL) and 'less than truck load' (LTL) becomes increasingly important.


On the demand side, the impact of monetary values and flexible switching between transport modes on reliability and travelling times have been identified (adapted stated preference survey), which could serve as important inputs for traffic models and scenarios.


Finally, an analysis of policy support strategies demonstrates how current policies could be improved, and that the expected shift from road to rail can only be achieved if the railways - as a result of competitive pressure - drastically improve their performance.

Policy implications

If one tries to give an overall judgement on the base of the above evaluation, the following picture emerges with respect to the possibilities of promoting competitiveness of combined transport on transalpine links and hence to shift transport from road to rail: A central role is played by the promotion of competition on rail through a non-discriminating access on the network. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = 'urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office' />


An increased competition will permit to realise unused productivity potentials and thus to increase quality of supply. The improvement of time related qualities of combined transport services and an increase in reliability will be crucial.


In the short run, a shift from road to rail will not be feasible, however, without significant price reductions, allowed for by subsidies.

The optimisation potentials created by infrastructure improvements and optimisation of the transport chain will only be effective in the medium and long run.


Furthermore, an important modal shift in favour of sustainability will not be possible, without an internalisation of external costs on a European level and a consequential implementation and control of social norms, speed limits and the like on the road.


Given that Switzerland has introduced the kilometre dependent tax on road freight traffic, the EU should follow this strategy in order to improve the competitiveness of rail bound transport services.

The strategy proposed by the Swiss government (1999) proposes a package of measures containing most of the instruments discussed in this report that can be introduced unilaterally.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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