Despite the growth in international freight transport by rail, the even stronger growth by road has meant that rail's market share continued to fall. The European Commission's 2001 Transport White Paper set out the reasons for this relative loss of competitiveness: the most fundamental cause being lack of interoperability, both at physical level (railway infrastructure and rolling stock) and at administrative level (legal, operational, etc).
The White Paper also designed a general framework of actions which, if applied by the relevant parties, would strengthen this sector and contribute to advance an innovative network of competitive integrated Pan-European services.
Based on the development in the freight sector in recent years and the near future, several investigations and measures were started to strengthen the rail sector. The TREND project served a role as the connecting part between recent and future research and development projects, with the aim of summarising and examining the development within all 'important' topics and defining and providing methodologies and themes for the next steps.
The main objective of the TREND project was to accelerate the development of predominantly nationally aligned systems into a single, integrated Pan-European system approach which will result into a more competitive rail freight service offer compared to road transport.
Part A of TREND aimed to gather all necessary information to assess the general progress in the establishment of a European railway area, while Part B then analysed the prerequisites for innovative and new concepts for Trans-European rail freight services. This paved the way for Part C in which a new Integrated Project was proposed and defined.
A core part of Part A of the project was the provision of an 'evaluation scheme for integration' which is composed of a set of sub-indices covering amongst others the issues of liberalisation, free access, interoperability etc. TREND also had the objective of recommending a coherent conception of individual actions as a 'breakdown' of the White Paper's general framework.
Main topic areas studied were:
- Methodology/Best Practices: Analysis of existing/envisaged shape and content of co-operation in rail freight business based on previous corridor studies.
- Application to new corridors: Choice and analysis of five European freight corridors and recommendation of those most suitable to configure a successful Integrated Project.
- Innovative Rail Freight Services: Elaboration of business cases for future oriented rail freight services on the above recommended corridors.
- Quality Standards: Development of quality standards for the different relations in rail freight service.
- Infrastructure Development Scheme/GIS: Elaboration of infrastructure development schemes related to the preparation of the IP and visualisation of results by means of a Geographic Information System (GIS).
- Business Model for International Co-operation: Elaboration of an appropriate business model and rules to serve as a basis for future international co-operation between relevant players.
Part A: The approach was to gather all the necessary information to assess general progress of a European railway area. This involved the following tasks:
- A1: Development of the design of the knowledge base and concept for information gathering in 13 selected European countries, followed by surveys and investigations.
- A2: Horizontal analysis of the different national institutional arrangements and organisational structures, and assessing these, including deducing any links between organisational aspects and progress made towards rail freight interoperability.
- A3: Summarising the results with the aim of obtaining a comprehensive picture of the current status in the European railway area with regard to barriers and opportunities relevant to establishing pan-European freight corridors, and recommendations for policy support.
Part B: The methodology includes the provision of a 'Tender Specification' for the envisaged Integrated Project 'New Concepts for Trans-European Rail Freight Services'. To ensure these objectives the TREND consortium assembled a group of stakeholders, not only representing all components and sides of rail freight services (various types of rail customers, railway undertakings, infrastructure managers, intermodal operators, consultants, university) but who partly also operate as competitors. Main tasks were:
- B1: Analysis of existing and envisaged types of co-operation aimed at alleviating or removing barriers to international freight transport by rail. Five corridors were covered: Netherlands - Italy via Germany and Switzerland; Netherlands - Italy via Belgium and France; Germany - Italy via Austria; Germany - Spain/Portugal via France; and Ukraine - Spain/Portugal via Hungary, Slovenia, Italy and France.
- B2: Choice and analysis of five supplementary freight corridors.
- B3: Elaboration of appropriate concepts (business cases) to meet the requirements of Trans-European rail freight.
- B4: Development of Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and quality standards.
- B5: Elaboration of an infrastructure development scheme on up to ten corridors.
- B6: Elaboration of a business model (open platform) concerning operational processes and equipment as a basis for international co-operation between Rail Undertakings (RUs).
- B7: Development of conclusions and recommendations.
Key project outputs are:
- An evaluation scheme for integration and interoperability ready to be exploited by the European Rail Agency;
- A detailed specification (Terms of Reference) for a call for proposal for a future Integrated Project with a view to experiment innovative international railway services;
- A comprehensive web-based geo-referenced information system (GIS) for the networking, dissemination and overall information. The GIS will include all relevant project findings with respect to the railway network, both infrastructure and service.
The majority of key results here relate to Part A of the project: 'Assessment of general progress in the establishment of a European railway area', as these are generally applicable findings. Results from Part B: 'Analysis of prerequisites for innovative and new concepts for Trans-European rail freight services' are presented more briefly as these are rather more complex, however the full results are available in the TREND Final Report.
Key results of the country investigations and evaluations in Part A of the project clearly showed that EU rail policy has achieved successful results but has also experienced limits:
- There is no country amongst those investigated and evaluated, that shows good practice in all cases. All countries still show some more or less weaknesses on which each single one needs to improve.
- Major framework conditions regarding the level playing field with other transport modes and sufficient capacity given to freight services are not yet fulfilled.
- Market forces need time to create a competitive environment. Liberalisation of the rail sector has required more regulation in the form of regulatory and competition bodies. These have been implemented by now in most countries. The focus at present is on how the system is managed.
- The European Commission alone cannot manage the change without support from the Member States: transport ministries, as equity holders of the former incumbent railway organisations and policy makers at the same time find themselves in a double role sometimes difficult to reconcile.
- Intramodal competition is a necessary but not sufficient precondition for more efficient intermodal competition.
- Rail freight, it has to be accepted, is not relevant for every kind of traffic. It should only concentrate on market segments where it has competitive advantages.
Key results for Part B: 'An
The major challenges, where achievements to date have not been sufficient, were seen in:
- more competition (in many countries)
- better quality, respecting contractual obligations
- further easing of access to operating on the network (path allocation, safety, international traffic)
- removing administrative and technical barriers to cross-border traffic
- providing sufficient 'good quality' infrastructure capacity for rail freight services.
Recommendations covered the following areas:
1. Take into account the specificity of the freight railway market:
- Concentrate on market segments where the railway mode is relevant
- Achieve better interoperability
- Rely on compound indexes blending market shares and best liberalisation practices when giving examples to follow
2. Transferring the know-how acquired in the most advanced countries
- Which party has to play the main role?
- Setting up guidelines
- The example of successful business models
3. Is there a need for additional legislative and institutional measures?
4. Is there a need for incentives?