This week, the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA) published a report on the potential of cross-border rail transport. The report focuses on the potential for growth in cross-border rail transport that would derive from the further removal of technical and operational barriers. The study focuses on freight but also passenger rail transport in Europe.
The study presents four examples of good practices of cross-border sections, two related to freight transport and two to passenger rail transport. The cases on cross-border passenger transport build primarily on qualitative inputs, including observations on international high-speed rail connections.
The freight-focused examples analyze the cross-border rail section between Giurgiu Nord (Romania) and Ruse Razpredel (Bulgaria) - RFC7, and the section between Brennero (Italy) - Staatsgrenze nächst Steinach in Tirol (Austria). The studies provide a quantitative evaluation of the impacts of technical and operational barriers on travel time, which in turn negatively affect rail traffic volumes and the modal split.
The report points to the significant potential for time savings for rail freight, from 50 minutes to 6 hours, when solving the technical and operational issues identified for the analyzed freight corridors. Modifications to the Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSIs) could help to reduce some of the barriers by closing open points and possibly reducing, where appropriate, specific cases.
“Immediate action is needed to remove barriers to cross-border rail transport – both for passenger and freight – in order to finally see the rail modal share grow,” said Josef Doppelbauer, EU Agency for Railways Executive Director and continued: “However, if we do not put out the investment volume for improving infrastructure and customer experience, essential modal share targets are at risk and won’t be recovered.”