DidYouKnow posts related to SURCO courses

Railway Lines

The essential railway infrastructure and equipment – Spotlight on Spain

The European railway system transports around 1.6 billion tonnes of freight each year. The railway is central to the EU’s strategy for a more sustainable transport sector, helping ensure economic and social cohesion and connecting Europeans within and between Member States.

The density of the national rail networks reflects the different geographical characteristics of the countries, with the Nordic and Baltic countries having the lowest rail network density on the continent.

Rail has the potential to play an important role in accelerating the reduction of transport emissions. “Rail only represented 2% of total transport energy consumption in the EU, while representing for 11.2% of freight and 6.6% of passengers in all modes of transport in 2016” (data from the Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the European Council, 2019). However, rail freight also has a number of other advantages: improved safety of goods compared to other means, lower accident rates, more storage capacity as a large volume of cargo can be transported over very long distances, and the potential for intermodality, if necessary.

Maintaining and renewing the existing network to improve safety and operational performance as well as ensuring a reliable service is a major challenge for infrastructure managers, especially in the face of increased traffic and demanding performance targets set by national authorities and operators.

This results in a number of disadvantages that caused this means to not be one of the most used for the transport of goods. It is conditional on the existence of infrastructures that are non-existent in some European countries. In addition, this means that, unlike other means, there are very few occasions when it can reach the warehouse or the final destination of the goods without the help of complementary means (such as the road).

Mandatory Intermodality

Rail transport falls under the intermodality umbrella, as it requires road transport to chauffer the goods from the point of origin to the railways, and to their final destinations. Rail gauge: The width of the gauge can differ from one country to another, which can cause difficulties in the transhipment of goods, and thus result in a significant increase in the expense of money and time.

The EU’s railways continue to grow. Rail markets are gradually opening up and safety levels remain high. This sector is increasingly demanding in terms of performance, innovation and responsiveness to customer needs. Rail transport’s fight to increase its modal share remains centered around interoperability and cross-border coordination issues. Corridors are a key part of the Commission’s policy to boost rail freight. The Rail Freight Regulation and the train drivers Directive are still being evaluated in order to boost and facilitate rail transport.

Spain

Locomotive of RENFE - the Spanish railway operator

In Spain, the railway represents around 4% of the total freight transport market. This market share has decreased in recent years in favour of road transport. Although part of this trend is common to other countries, the rail market share in Spain is much smaller. For example, rail represents 19% of the total goods market in Germany and 15% in France –  nearly four times the Spanish equivalent.

If the sector can convince transporters to opt for rail motorways to reduce costs, and get exporters and importers to bring their goods to the ports through the use of the rail, it is likely to grow in the coming years.

To improve international rail freight traffic, France and Spain have re-launched two rail motorways between the two countries, through a call for expressions of interest. This marks the first step in finding out whether or not the infrastructure is viable in the region.

Intrigued? The Escola organises courses focusing in particular on maritime rail and maritime-road intermodal solutions, called SURCO. Contact us if you’d like to know more and to find out when the next courses will take place.

Written by:

  • Raquel Nunes – Co-founder of Youngship Portugal

#DidYouKnow – Rail transport and the development of the Iberian Peninsula as a Hub – Atlantic Corridor

Should Spain and Portugal jointly boost investment in infrastructure of rail transport? This is a question that is currently on the minds of the operators and actors active in the rail transport sector on the Iberian peninsula. To coincide with the European Union’s goals on sustainable development, the sector still has a long way to go to garner a portion of the market share currently occupied by maritime and road transport.

“The Portuguese and Spanish governments should increase their budgets for rail and port infrastructure” is the European Commission’s recommendation. Portuguese ports are considered as potential European import hubs because of their geographical location on the Atlantic coast. In this context, investment in port and rail infrastructure should be encouraged. The European rail system transports around 1.6 billion tonnes of goods each year. Rail transport is fundamental to the European Union’s strategy for a more sustainable transport sector, for economic and social cohesion and for connecting European countries within and between Member States.

Some of the main European modal corridors link Portugal and Spain, thus contributing to the improvement of connections between the centre of the EU and its peripheral regions, whilst strengthening the position of the Iberian Peninsula as a portal to Western Europe.

There are two main European corridors entering the Iberian Peninsula: the Atlantic Corridor and the Mediterranean Corridor. Looking at the Spanish rail network, we have the Atlantic corridor, which connects the French border of Irun/Hendaye with Portugal via Vitoria, Burgos and Valladolid, with a branch that goes south via Madrid, Lisbon and the port of Algeciras. The Mediterranean Corridor runs from the French border at Portbou/Cerbère to the port of Algeciras and Seville along the Mediterranean coast, through Barcelona and Valencia. In  Portugal, the Atlantic Corridor begins in Lisbon and the port of Sines, then moves eastwards through Spain (through Badajoz-Elvas). Another branch goes to Aveiro and Porto, and then moves eastwards to Spain through Vilar Formoso-Salamanca.

“The mission of the Atlantic Corridor principally covers the management of existing infrastructures, without additional investments, through centralized management of capacity allocation, traffic management and costumer relationship.” This project arose with the common objective of the governments of Portugal, Spain, France and Germany to increase the competitiveness and modal share of international rail freight transport and to jointly overcome technical and operational barriers. The Atlantic Corridor is integrated into the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) and is connected to the Mediterranean Corridor and the North Sea-Mediterranean Corridor. The extension of the Atlantic Corridor to Germany will allow direct connections with two other corridors, namely the Rhine-Alps and the future Rhine-Danube.

With a total length of more than 6,200 km, the main heterogeneous technical characteristics in terms of infrastructure that need to be improved stand out: the presence of the European gauge (1435 mm) in France and Germany and the larger Iberian gauge (1668 mm) in Portugal and Spain; electrified sections with differing voltages; and different signaling systems. The aim of the Atlantic Corridor is to coordinate investment in order to homogenize the technical characteristics of the infrastructures throughout the participating countries in this project.

EU railways continue to grow. Rail markets are gradually opening up and safety levels remain high. This sector is increasingly demanding more innovation and responsiveness to customer needs. Rail transport’s fight to increase its modal share continues to center around interoperability and cross-border coordination issues. Corridors are essential elements of the Commission’s policy to boost rail freight transport. If the sector can convince haulers to opt for rail motorways to reduce costs, and exporters and importers to transport their freight to ports by rail, it is very likely to grow in the coming years and thus continue to align itself with the EU’s mission towards the sustainable development of transport on the continent.

Intrigued? The Escola will delve into these and other railway related subjects in great depth during the upcoming Port2Rail course, set to take place in October 2019. Check out the course programme here.

Written by:

  • Raquel Nunes, Training Programmes & External Relations Manager (Escola Europea – Intermodal Transport)