• English

9 December 2011

Trends and performance in the Intermodal Transport and Logistic Industry

The Working Party on Intermodal Transport and Logistics held its fifty-fourth session on 2–3 November 2011 in Geneva and noted that intermodal road-rail transport had recorded an annual growth rate of 6–7 per cent from the period starting in the late nineties up till 2008. Correlating with the economic crisis, there was a slow-down of operations of around 2 per cent in 2008 and a dramatic decline of 17 per cent in 2009. An 8 per cent rise in traffic for unaccompanied and accompanied transport was reported for 2010. Although post crisis levels have yet to be obtained, international traffic in 2010 increased by 9 per cent (3,52 million TEU) whereas national traffic is stipulated to have augmented by 6 per cent (2,54 million TEU).

Particular problems arose in 2010 due to the lack of rail pocket wagons able to carry semi-trailers. At present, this intermodal transport technique accounts for 10 per cent of all road-rail transport operations and may further increase since the number of semitrailers suitable for vertical transshipments was rapidly growing and has reached nearly 50 per cent of all newly produced units. At the same time, many rail pocket wagons have reached the end of their life and must be replaced quickly.

Intermodal road-rail traffic continued to grow in the first half of 2011. However, this upward trend is already slowing down in the second half of 2011. The outlook for 2012 is bleak as economic growth in Europe will be negatively affected by the austerity measures taken in a number of European countries. In addition, the scheduled temporary closure of the Brenner railway line in 2012 for maintenance and rehabilitation works will complicate transalpine services and may reduce its reliability and punctuality, while increasing costs.

According to a study on Intercontinental Combined Traffic (ICOMOD), it is estimated that Euro-Asian rail transport volumes could reach 1 million TEU annually by 2030. This traffic flow comes mainly from East Asia – largely from China and in addition, traffic from South Asia could add another 150,000 TEU annually. Already, a large amount of TEU (500,000) could be transported in Euro-Asian corridors through the very attractive Trans-Siberian railway line which diminishes the time it takes to transport goods from 11 to 30 days through sea transport. But in order to arrive at such traffic volumes, Euro-Asian rail transport must already become attractive for high value goods that are produced and consumed away from major sea ports. This would ensure an increased reliability, predictability and frequency of services.

More information is available in the Report of the November 2011 session of the Working Party on Intermodal Transport and Logistics (WP.24).