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LIVE COVERAGE: Impact Study of Amendments to Weights and Dimensions Directive on Rail Transport

LIVE COVERAGE: Impact Study of Amendments to Weights and Dimensions Directive on Rail Transport
photo: UIRR / Public domain/Presentation
11 / 01 / 2024

RAILTARGET is on the scene today, bringing live coverage straight from the much-anticipated presentation of the 'Study on the Impacts of the Proposed Amendments to the Weights and Dimensions Directive on Combined Transport and Rail Freight Transport.'

The proposals, part of the Greening Freight Transport Package, aim to promote zero-emission vehicles, facilitate the use of larger vehicles in cross-border transport, and support intermodal operations. Guided by the expert input and moderation of Jens Engelman, this event marks yet another important milestone in the ongoing efforts to address sustainability and efficiency in the European freight transport sector.

14:00 The event kicks off with a warm welcome and introduction by Jens Engelmann, representing Railiable, who will guide us through the proceedings. Underlining the importance and relevance of the proposed amendments to the Weights and Dimensions Directive, he sets the stage for a series of presentations and discussions that are expected to be highly influential for the future of transport and railways. The agenda promises a deep dive into the study’s findings and a comprehensive panel discussion with key industry leaders, ensuring a thorough exploration of the potential impacts on rail freight and combined transport.

14:10 Ralf-Charley Schultze outlines the legislative strides being made as part of the Greening Freight Transport Package. He emphasizes the three-pronged approach: the amendment of the Combined Transport Directive, introducing a new regulation for Rail Infrastructure Capacity Management, and revising the Weights and Dimensions Directive. "We are aiming at a joint understanding that the elements are all connected," he adds. 

Presentation / CER. UIC, UIRR, ERFA, UIP

14:15 Dr. Lisa Löbling of d-fine GmbH takes the word, delving into the heart of the study that scrutinizes the proposed amendments to the Weights & Dimensions Directive. She brings attention to critical questions that need addressing: the impacts on road infrastructure, the compatibility of EMS modules with current transport systems, and the sufficiency of height allowances for non-containerized cargo.

Presentation / CER. UIC, UIRR, ERFA, UIP

Dr. Lisa Löbling continues her presentation, she confronts the complexities that the European Modular System (EMS) poses for Combined Transport (CT) operations. The EMS, with its longer and heavier vehicle combinations, represents a significant shift in the transport of goods, promising an increase in volume capacity by 50%. She points out that while there are opportunities to enhance CT efficiency, particularly for low-density, high-volume cargo, there are considerable risks.

Presentation / CER. UIC, UIRR, ERFA, UIP

The presentation moves into a critical examination of the weight incentives and additional height provisions proposed for intermodal transport. The focus is on the practicality and implications of these revisions. Dr. Lisa Löbling highlights the weight allowance increase of +4 tonnes for zero-emission vehicles and conventional trucks, which, while seemingly beneficial, presents challenges such as the adequacy of infrastructure, with many terminals not equipped to handle the heavier loads, and concerns over the impact on rail wagon axle loads.

Presentation / CER. UIC, UIRR, ERFA, UIP

14:25 Continuing with the proposed legislative changes, Dr. Lisa Löbling turns to the potential risks associated with the introduction of longer and heavier vehicles (LHVs). She underscores a stark warning: the advent of LHVs could precipitate a reverse modal shift, particularly for single wagon load (SWL) transport, which currently accounts for about 27% of total rail freight. This shift, she notes, would be counterproductive to climate objectives, as it might draw traffic away from rail to road.

Presentation / CER. UIC, UIRR, ERFA, UIP

Dr. Lisa Löbling further addresses the common benefits of longer and heavier vehicles (LHVs), namely their cost and energy efficiency. She presents data showing that while there is a marginal cost reduction per tonne when increasing the weight from 40 to 44 tonnes, the cost savings are more significant in volume-limited cases with the use of mega trucks and the European Modular System (EMS). However, the operational and capital costs do not rise proportionally with vehicle volume or weight, pointing out that the most considerable savings are seen in the transport of low-density cargo via EMS.

Presentation / CER. UIC, UIRR, ERFA, UIP

Dr. Löbling underscores that the reverse modal shift potential is not uniform across the board but is influenced by the cost savings potential and price elasticity within each freight category. Combined Transport (CT), which is integral to rail freight transport and is included in all freight categories, especially in unidentifiable goods, faces a significant risk of reduction in volume due to the attraction of EMS for certain goods.

She then presents the consequences of a reverse modal shift from rail to road transport, emphasizing that such a shift is not without significant repercussions. She points out a projected reduction in rail transport volume by 21% across all goods categories and a 16% decrease in combined transport (CT) volume, which indicates a substantial move away from these more environmentally friendly modes of transport to road transport, estimated to increase by 5.3 to 10.5 million additional truck journeys.

Presentation / CER. UIC, UIRR, ERFA, UIP

14:40 Alberto Mazzola of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) begins the panel discussion with a critical perspective on the current direction of the proposed transport policy changes. He states, "We do not object to making road transport green," acknowledging the importance of environmental progress across all modes of transportation.

However, Mazzola highlights a contradiction within the policy proposals, which seemingly encourage the transfer of significant freight volumes to road transport, a move that is at odds with the objectives of the European Green Deal. He stresses the environmental cost of shifting freight from rail to road, stating that every tonne-kilometer moved to road transport produces nine times more emissions. This assertion underscores the argument that while greening road transport is necessary, it should not come at the expense of rail, which is inherently more energy-efficient and less polluting.

14:45 Connor Feighan from the European Rail Freight Association (ERFA) echoes Alberto Mazzola's statement, affirming a collective endorsement for greener road transport initiatives that align with the overarching goal of emissions reduction. However, he points that while the push towards a more sustainable road sector is commendable, it should not undermine the established benefits of rail transport, particularly its lower emissions footprint.

Presentation / CER. UIC, UIRR, ERFA, UIP

14:50 Giles Peterhans (UIP) underscores the urgency for sustainable transport, stating, "Getting zero-emissions is a must." He emphasizes the need for a systems-level approach, saying, "You cannot consider every mode of transport for itself," advocating for the respect of different transport modes' life cycles and the essential interoperability between them to achieve true sustainability.

14:55 Ralf-Charley Schultze (UIRR) mentions the need for harmonization across the transport sector to guide the right investments. He emphasizes the significance of Dr. Lisa Löbling's points on terminals, particularly the aspects concerning trucks and their integration within the broader transport network. Schultze advocates for harmonization as a solution, suggesting that a unified strategy is essential for addressing the intricacies that terminals face in the wake of evolving transport policies and the introduction of heavier and larger trucks.

15:05 In response to the question of whether limiting road transport is the right approach, Eric Feyen (UIRR) advocates for a balanced evaluation. He suggests that the focus should be on assessing the proposal's alignment with three key objectives: road efficiency, decarbonization, and intermodal transport, as outlined by the European Commission. "There is no idea from our side to limit the road possibilities but to evaluate if those possiblities are the right ones," he states.

15:10 François Davenne (UIC) emphasizes the urgency of addressing the modal shift within the carbon market. He highlights the ongoing conversation about how to facilitate this shift. The goal is to divert a portion of traffic away from modes of transport with higher emissions, such as road transport, and redirect it towards more sustainable alternatives like rail.

15:15 "We need to reduce emissions," states Alberto MazzolaHe points out the contradiction of increasing diesel tonnage capacity on the road while diverting freight from rail, which could undermine emissions reduction goals.

15:25 When asked about the next steps to deal with the dilemma, Ralf-Charley Schultze (UIRR) highlighted the need to promote systemic change, underlining that any directive must consider all modes of transport comprehensively. He underscored the importance of a holistic approach that doesn't isolate road transport but rather integrates it into a broader strategy for transportation that includes other modes.

This concludes the presentation of the 'Study on the Impacts of the Proposed Amendments to the Weights and Dimensions Directive on Combined Transport and Rail Freight Transport.' Thank you for tuning in with RAILTARGET for the live coverage.