Activity: Rail Freight

A new approach that combines all rail freight related policies

Efficient rail freight transport services are crucial to achieve the EU agenda on energy, environment, growth and jobs. However, the main barriers to promoting competitive rail freight services remains the fragmented approach via different legislative acts and the missing link towards the needs of the logistic supply chain and correlated shippers' priorities. The EU’s policy objectives for shifting goods from road to rail have been translated into a series of EU legislative measures aiming at opening the market and promoting interoperability and safety. in addition,  To  avoid a further collapse in the logistics and transport services offered by rail, the rail freight strategy framework needs more coherency and a streamlining of European legislation  and through Sector and business-driven initiatives.


Commission proposal on electronic freight transport information

On 17th May 2018 the Commission has within the framework of its Third Mobility Package proposed a Regulation on electronic freight transport information. Stakeholders are invited to provide feedback on the proposal via the online consultation which will be open until 30th July 2018. The objective of the measure is to require national authorities to accept relevant freight transport information in electronic form when it comes to transport of goods within the EU. The Commission envisages that the move from paper documents to digital exchanged information would bring significant benefits to businesses by cutting on administrative costs. Furthermore, the measure is expected to:

  • streamline a fragmented legal framework for accepting electronic information or documents
  • make the logistic process itself more efficient and effective
  • foster the interoperability of IT systems for electronic transport information and documentation exchange cross-modes

The current Commission proposal only covers transport within the EU and information which is required by European legislations as covered in Annex I of the proposal, among them Directive 92/106/EEC on Combined Transport (currently under revision) as well as Directive 2008/68/EC on the inland transport of dangerous goods.

The data should be processed under an ‘electronic freight transport information platform’ (also referred to as eFTI platform) whose detailed functionalities should be determined in an implementing act by the Commission. These eFTI platforms should be set up by the market but certified by the relevant Member States. The Commission proposes a transition period of four years once the Regulation enters into force, also to allow it to work on the implementing act.

The proposal is most likely to be presented in the Council during the Austrian presidency and awaits the appointment of the rapporteur in the European Parliament.

Rail Freight Corridors (RFC) - a European rail network for competitive freight

The Rail Freight Corridors Regulation 913/2010 sets rules for the establishment of currently 9 international cross/border freight corridors. These include definitions, organisation, management, indicative investment planning, and use of infrastructure. For UIP members, the management and operations of the rail freight corridors have an impact on the traffic flow and the movement of goods, which in turn determine the capacity of freight wagons running along the freight corridors and beyond.
Early 2016 the European Commission launched a Regulatory and Fitness (REFIT) procedure to assess the implementation of the Regulation and to consider further actions and the need for adaptation.

On the 27th of May 2016 a public consultation was launched to which UIP responded, providing as well key inputs derived from the Sector Declaration.  The sector declaration was followed by a Ministerial Declaration, on 21st June 2016 during the TEN-T days in Rotterdam, where the Transport Ministers from the EU Member States, Switzerland and Norway have expressed their strong support for the development of international rail freight transport and for the continuation of the market-oriented development of the Rail Freight Corridors.

Following the consultation and the momentum created by the Rotterdam declaration, the Commission has decided to postpone its decision whether to revise the Regulation by the end of 2018. Instead, the Sector decided to create a working group to follow up on 10 priorities deriving from the sector statement. During the Rail Freight Day in 2016, the 10 priority projects were presented and project managers confirmed. In January 2018, the Dutch and Austrian Ministries, as co-chairs of the network of RFC Executive Boards proposed to contract a consultant (Panteia) to analyse the progress made on the implementation of the Rotterdam declaration. A progress report is expected to be published in July 2018. The European Commission will then decide by end of 2018 whether the Rail Freight Corridor (RFC) Regulation needs a revision.

Next meetings of the RFC Sector Statement Group: 24th of October 2018

Wagon Load services and last mile operations (WL)

Wagon Load (aka single wagon load) services play a crucial role to complex logistics chains, particularly for certain industries, such as chemical. It allows rail freight customers to dispatch small shipments to a large number of destinations using last mile infrastructure (private sidings) and marshalling yards. WL has to be understood as an alternative production system to the classic full-trainload offer for dense industrial areas. However, in order to promote efficient rail freight and with that a positive development of the wagon load market, there needs to be a commitment by all the actors involved to offer reliability, smart logistic services and appropriate infrastructure capacity and access, especially for the last miles. In addition, the European Commission (EC) has an important role in setting up the appropriate framework for dialogue and financing conditions through CEF and Regional funds, thus keeping rail freight on the political agenda of the Single European Railway Area.

Following the publication of the PWC study on wagonload traffic and the position paper on last mile and wagon load services provided by UIP together with other Sector Associations (CEFIC, CEPI, CER, CLECAT, EFIP, ESC, and ESPO), the EC responded to the findings and recommendations stating that they already identified a number of concrete actions to promote and develop Wagon load services:

  • make investments in last-mile infrastructure eligible under the Cohesion Fund as a multi-location projects
  • make investments relating to last-mile infrastructure eligible under the Freight transport services priority in the calls of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF)
  • lower the threshold for proposals concerning wagonload traffic submitted under the last two calls of the Marco Polo program
  • initiate a study on design features for support programs for last-mile infrastructure (finalised in Spring 2016)
  • initiate a study concerning a single European information portal for last-mile locations (finalised in Summer 2016 and which be accessed under
  • dedicate research and innovation funds to wagon load related issues (see Shift2Rail  Innovation Programme 5 for more details)

Combined Transport

The Combined Transport Directive 92/106 provides incentives for combined transport and aims at shifting transport from road to rail and waterborne transport. It was one of the oldest legislations that has been examined under the EC Regulatory and Fitness program (REFIT) in 2016. The evaluation concluded that the uptake of intermodal transport in Europe has not grown sufficiently to meet the modal shift target set in the 2011 White paper, due to a lack of investments in intermodal infrastructure. To further promote multimodality, the European Commission adopted a Proposal for a revision of the Combined Transport Directive in November 2017, as part of the Second Mobility Package, aimed at further increasing the competitiveness of combined transport through:

  • clarifying and extending the definition of combined transport;
  • improving the monitoring of eligibility and enforcement conditions;
  • increasing the effectiveness of incentives; and
  • improving the reporting and monitoring conditions of the Directive.

UIP welcomes the proposal but is concerned that it does not guarantee more and new traffics to shift to rail and other sustainable modes of transport. We fully support the call for more investments in rail infrastructure and terminals so that they can process longer trains and larger volume of goods but UIP also draws the attention to the fact that national budgets should not create positive discrimination in rail between containers transport and conventional transport.The new legislative proposal offers a unique opportunity to address freight logistics but any provisions bearing the risk of creating additional administrative burden, which may result in extra costs for the Member States and the transport Sector, should be avoided.

Along with 11 road and waterborne associations, also known as the I AM Alliance, UIP called upon the European Parliament and the Council that amendments to the CT Directive must pave the way for efficient intermodal and multimodal freight services offering a level playing field for all modes of transport and promoting better the alternative modes to suppliers, users and customers. The joint position paper, which was signed just before the European Commission High-Level Conference on European Multimodal Freight Transport, on 20th March 2018 in Sofia, also underlines that investments should first focus on enhancing the capacity of existing facilities and that the future Directive should promote that the required transport documents to proof combined transport operation can be provided in digital form.

Discussions in the Council have already started end of 2017, while the European Parliament designated Daniela Aiuto (EFDD, IT) as the rapporteur, who published her draft report in March 2018. The TRAN committee of the European Parliament is currently preparing its position where a vote is envisaged on 10 July 2018.

UIP Documents

UIP Position on the revision of the CT Directive - March 2018
Joint Position on the revision of the CT Directive - March 2018
Results of the RFC Public Consultation - September 2016
Railway Sector declaration on boosting international rail freight - June 2016
Joint Statement on wagonload traffic - October 2015
Joint Press release - Directive 92/106 to govern more than one mode - December 2014
Rail Freight Sector needs EU action - June 2009

EU Documents of interest

Draft Report by Daniela Aiuto (EFDD, IT) on the proposal for a revision of the CT Directive - March 2018
Impact assessment on the amendment of Directive 92/106/EEC - November 2017 
Ministerial declaration during TEN-T days in Rotterdam - June 2016
European Court of Auditors' report on Rail freight transport in the EU: still not on the right track - May 2016
EC roadmap on the evaluation and fitness check of Regulation 913/2010 - March 2016
Public consultation on Combined Transport Report on the contributions received - August 2014