The centrality of rail in a pan-European dimension is the ultimate goal of the European Transport Policy encouraging long-term sustainable mobility and promoting a competitive environment. In order to achieve this goal, a modal shift towards rail is necessary while reverting the erosion of rail freight market share. The NEW OPERA project's aim was to contribute to this goal.
The NEW OPERA project set out to contribute to the goal of the centrality of rail in a pan-European dimension by assessing ways for:
- implementing the ERRAC Strategic Rail Research Agenda 2020 by capturing the threefold increase in freight volumes by 2020
- providing grounds for the establishment of 15.000 km of new and existing lines predominantly dedicated to freight
- revitalising the Rail business by applying NEW business models, NEW service culture through the use of freight dedicated rail infrastructure
- envisage transitions from the existing Rail business model based on rail infrastructure dual use to one more capable of capturing market demands and achieve productivity and efficiency gains based on dedicated freight networks, on the basis of 4 scenarios.
In particular, NEW OPERA contributed toward inverting the declining trend of EU railways by:
- Setting sound methodologies for the distribution of traffic flows over railway networks;
- Precisely localising traffic flows in the European area so as to give development forecasts;
- Providing a sound analysis of transport demand and supply over railway networks;
- Establishing simulation and modelling tools of traffic flows on medium and long-term perspectives;
- Providing an efficient decision-making tool;
- Allowing for the introduction of the concept of dedicated rail freight networks backed by a sound socio-economic and environmental assessment.
The achievement of these objectives should provide the market with:
- Significant increase of speed on the main European corridors of up to 100 %; present measurements made on railway networks (RFF) show, that the most critical point is the time lost on nodes to leave priority to passengers trains rather than the speed of the freight train.
- Increase in reliability and consistency of rail services competitive with those offered by road (hypothesis taken from EUFRANET).
- Important reduction of cost due to increasing rotation of rolling stock, increase of 'effective' driving hours of drivers and possible increase in length of trains: these are expected to lead a reduction from 30% up to 50% of operating costs.
- Very significant increase in rail network capacity due to more homogeneous speed of the trains, pointing at bottlenecks which have to be removed.
- Better combined utilisation of new infrastructure for High Speed Train and former rail li
A number of key players in the rail and transport freight value chain (Shippers, Intermodal operators, Logistics operators, New Rail Traction Companies, Infrastructure Companies, Major Ports, Wagons Owners, Trucking Companies, Manufacturers of rail systems and equipment) provided their expertise to fulfil the New Opera Objectives. During its 4 years-lifetime, New Opera objectives covered a Scenario Exercise, migrating from a reference situation where only market forced would play on existing networks (Scenario 0), to a fully dedicated freight network introducing double stack, heavier axle loads, longer trains, radio commanded locomotives, hubs and intelligent applications for the information management.
Results in the following dimensions have been produced by the NEW OPERA project:
- State of innovative experiences. The global and European market variables have been researched. The new trade patterns and the future trends within supply chains have set the framework which the future freight mobility need will be confronted with. Global challenges and new emerging service needs, dictated by a fierce competition game with longer and more sophisticated supply chains, are the prevailing common denominators. The necessary changes for facing this new competitive business environment with a more modern and optimistic outlook were suggested.
- New operating and technical systems/aspects. This dimension addressed all technological aspects, both hardware and software. The issue of longer and heavier trains has been developed together with the signalling and management systems necessary for allowing the increased measures to be adopted. A variety of other management and bureaucratic barriers preventing the rail system from being one uniform rail space in Europe have been addressed. The cross border rail free circulation is still in its infancy. A lot of conflicts interfering with optimisation are still in existence. A showcase corridor has been taken as example for its complexity. The training and new operating rules dealt with harmonisation principles and the need of operating on a recognised and accepted sets of guidelines assuming the value of contract between partners. The interoperability dimension has been elaborated with particular attention to the ERTMS level 1,2,3 cost effectiveness assessment.
- Network Perspective. A complex market research was conducted. Modelling methodologies have been applied in order to establish the European traffic origin and destination matrix as well as the entry points into the Union for the Extra-EU traffic. All this work was instrumental for assigning the rail freight network including hubs, gateways and connections coherent with the European traffic demand zones. The intermodal traffic is of particular relevance. It is unitised and projection up to year 2020 is based on good ground with the various sources giving coincidental projections. The ports of entry for maritime traffic provide a cross reference giving substance to the traffic projections. The analysis per transport modes is also made for national and international traffic.
- New product/services. The market actors realised that investments in additional capa
The following recommendations regarding new operating and technical systems/aspects have been made:
- The impossibility of providing by 2020 the required rail freight capacity forced the recommendation of considering the other only option of longer and heavier trains. Longer trains do not impact negatively on rail tracks productivity which means that theoretically doubling the train length the rail line productivity increases by the same quantity. The axle weight increase must be achieved at the same time to take full advantage of the expected benefits. However this increase capacity is achievable only through investments in longer parking yards, longer overtaking sidings, new breaking/communication signalling technologies, rolling stock, automatic coupling and more powerful electric substations.
- The double stack option should be considered for any new rail lines being planned or built together with new tunnels. Such option appeared to be most relevant wherever shuttle trains operations are implemented for port decongestion transferring CTS traffic from ports to inland dry ports.
- The old dilemma of choosing between electric vs. diesel traction moved in favour of electricity. This is due to technology evolution allowing multi current locomotives, environmental considerations and power made available by renewable sources. Diesel traction is still very important for covering electrification gaps and manoeuvring flexibilities. In order to reduce the impact of using fossils fuels, biodiesel percentages could be increased together with improving the balance in favour of renewable energies.
- Standardised maintenance emerged as a major area for reducing operating costs improving rail line efficiency.
- The adoption of software technologies was recommended particularly for the cross border abatement barriers. Important gaps must be covered to resolve: insufficient cross-border coordination, train numbering, tracking/tracing, traffic management and trains priorities. Other gaps exist in empty wagons optimisation still done manually in national management systems not communicating to each other and in the inability to deal with shippers / cargo peculiarities.
- The effective movements of trains on the corridors and their punctuality are moreover hampered by the incumbents inability to calculate expected train’s time of arrival. Trains delayed +10 minutes lose their slot. National Infrastructure Managers (IM) find solutions up to their borders. The bordering I
NEW OPERA contributed toward inverting the EU railways' declining trend by:
- Setting sound methodologies for traffic flows distribution over the railways network;
- Localising traffic flows in the EU area producing development forecasts;
- Providing transport supply and demand analysis over the rail network;
- Establishing traffic flows simulation and modelling tools on medium and long-term perspectives;
- Providing an efficient decision-making tool;
- Allowing the introduction of rail freight dedicated network concept backed by a sound socioeconomic and environmental assessment.