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TENT-T network needs freight-only lines and an "intermodal cross-section"

TENT-T network needs freight-only lines and an &quote;intermodal cross-section&quote;
photo: TenTec/High speed railway
22 / 04 / 2021

The railway infrastructure needs to be adapted to the needs of intermodal transport and the revision of the TEN-T project is an ideal moment for a change of this kind. This is the main message of the UIRR in its statement to EU legislators. According to experts, the current TEN-T network is outdated in many ways, not taking into account the large role that intermodal operation plays today.

Intermodal railways account for half of the performance of European rail freight transport - this has been confirmed in the UIC-UIRR study on combined transport. Intermodal rail freight traffic has almost doubled its share in recent decades. This phenomenon has largely been unnoticed as the market share of rail freight has stagnated due to declining conventional transport, argues UIRR.

In order to expand intermodal transport capacities, several changes are needed when revising TEN-T parameters. This is scheduled for October this year and the European Commission is currently preparing its revision proposal. Stakeholders are invited to respond to public calls and engage in discussions about the future shape of the network.

TEN-T technical parameters

In order to better meet the needs of rail freight transport, the technical parameters of railway tracks in the TEN-T Regulation need to be updated, says UIRR. These parameters define the track standards that are part of the TEN-T network but do not always meet the needs of the current intermodal sector. For example, the loading gauge should allow the passage of intermodal trains carrying 4 metres high and 2,60 metres wide refrigerated semi-trailers.

"Measurements of the gauge and the calculation of the width of the load for the maximum width and height of the train that can pass may be several decades old," the company explains. "In some cases, actual codification took place long before 2.60 m wide and 4 m-high (chilled) semi-trailers were allowed to operate on European roads." According to the UIRR, this can lead to unfortunate situations. In several cases, railway infrastructure managers even deny their use to intermodal train path managers simply because tracks codification nominally does not allow the circulation of standard intermodal wagons loaded with these types of semi-trailers.

The parameter of the TEN-T load gauges should be updated, but infrastructure managers should also be entrusted to regularly confirm existing codification on the basis of empirical measurements. The frequency of such exercise should not be longer than every 10 years, they argue.

Railway lines for freight transport only

There should be a network of railway lines preferred for freight transport. While there are several railway lines where train routes are only available for passenger trains, there is no category to designate those railway lines that provide only freight transport. "It is not an exclusive, but a priority way," explains UIRR. 'The designation of the preferred freight railway line should be established to indicate those railway lines on which more than 50 % of train journeys are allocated to freight trains.'

An important reason for creating a freight network is that freight trains run at a lower speed than passenger trains. In general, the maximum speed of a freight train shall not exceed 120 km / h. However, double track have a speed parameter of 160 km / h. UIRR claims that freight lines should have a speed parameter of 120 km / h.

Intermodal core network corridor terminals

In order to be part of the EU main core network, intermodal terminals must currently have an 'annual bulk volume of over 800 000 tonnes. However, this is difficult to measure because the volume of cargo is not monitored and recorded by the terminals themselves; their power measurement unit is the number of translated units that should be set at 40,000 at the CNC terminal, UIRR states.

In addition, the UIRR Expert Group would like to see that TEN-T parameters also require innovative devices in the terminal. Currently, they must be equipped with cranes and other equipment for the movement of cargo. This should be extended to devices such as photo gateways with optical character recognition (OCR) functionality. 'This is particularly important to mention in the revised Regulation, because only in this way will these types of investments be eligible for financial assistance under the CEF transport programme.'

About the TEN-T network

The Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) is a pan-European network of railway lines, roads, inland waterways, shipping routes, ports, airports and railway terminals. The core network includes the most important connections connecting the most important nodes and is due to be completed by 2030.

The TEN-T Regulation defines national and European investment and targeted funding under the CEF and other relevant EU schemes. This Regulation is revised from time to time because new developments, which were not foresee at the time of its creation, require the modernisation of certain functions of the network. The proposal for the core network will remain as it is, the change will occur in the parameters that define national and European investment and targeted funding under the CEF and other relevant EU regimes.