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 remain 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. 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 general objective of the eFTI proposal is to establish a uniform legal framework for the transmission of digital freight transport information and thereby contribute to greater efficiency of the transport sector. The EP Plenary adopted the EP TRAN report by Claudia Schmidt (EPP) in March 2019. On 6thJune 2019,the Transport Council adopted its general approach stating that all relevant public authorities will be required to accept information made available electronically on certified platforms when companies use this format to provide information. However, companies will still be able to present the information in paper format if they prefer to do so.

In the three years following the entry into force of the new rules, the Commission will adopt common technical specifications to ensure interoperability between the various IT systems and solutions used for the exchange of freight transport information.

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 nineinternational 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 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 tenpriority 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. The European Commission will launch a public consultation in the 4th quarter 2019 and on its basisdecide whether the Rail Freight Corridor (RFC) Regulation needs a revision.

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 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 Shift2RailInnovation 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 havebeen 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
  • 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.

While the European Parliament has reconfirmed its position on the revision of the Combined Transport Directive in March 2019 and adopted the July 2018 EP Transport & Tourism Committee report, the controversial discussions between Member States in the Council will continue oncean agreement canbe found onthe road reforms which are part of the First MobilityPackage.The aim of tightening up the rules for posted workers,driving times and cabotage is unpopular in EasternEurope but strongly backed by the larger EU economiesof Germany and France. It remains to be seen if thebumps in the road for a legislative piece that shouldassure a harmonised intermodal regulatory frameworkin Europe can be overcome.Consequently, discussions between the EU legislators on the CTD in the so-called Trialogue are at the earliest foreseen in September 2019.

European Rail Facilities Portal

The Portal is an EU‐fundedonline platform, mapping and providing key information on the rail service facilities (e.g. train stations, intermodal terminals, marshalling yards and refuelling facilities) and last‐mile infrastructure (e.g. public and private sidings) all over Europe. It also provides information on the availability of rail‐related services (e.g. locomotive repair and maintenance, refuelling and customs clearance).

The European Rail Facilities Portal is now available via the following link:

Why do we need it?

Different sources have identified the lack of easy and quick access to information about last‐mile infrastructure for rail (especially freight) as being a significant barrier to the efficient planning of rail services, in particular across borders.

The European Commission has addressed the issue in Directive 2012/34/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 November 2012 establishing a single European railway areaand in Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/2177 of 22 November 2017 on access to service facilities and rail‐related services. EU legislation requires that all operators provide non-discriminatory access to service facilities and to the supply of rail‐related services in these facilities and that they publish a description of the facility and the services provided. The Portal provides one of the three ways for service facilities operators to comply with their obligation under Directive 2012/34/EUto prepare and publish a description of their service facilities and the services supplied in these facilities. The Portal is set up to provide easy online access to such information, free of charge.

Who is it for?

The Portal meets the needs of both parties supplying and demanding access to rail service facilities and to services provided in those facilities. Railway undertakings, logistics operators, rail regulatory bodies will be the main users of the tool on the demand side. The Portal will also give a boost to rail service facility operators and service providers, who now have a possibility to provide easy access to information about their facilities and services and develop their business by being easily located and identified by potential clients.

How does it work?

Access to the Portal is free and no registration is required for users looking to locate rail service facilities.
The initial set of information provided on the Portal has been collected by the independent contractor who developed it. Rail service facility operators or rail‐related service providers can register on the Portal and introduce or edit the information about their own facilities and services. In the future, the service facility operators will be responsible for updating the data for their own facilities.

Summary of the legislation on access to rail service facilities and rail-related services

On 1stJune 2019, Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/2177 of 22 November 2017 on access to service facilities and rail‐related servicesentered into force. The Regulation specifies the minimum information that operators of service facilitiesmust provide in a service facility description for the service facility and for the services for which they are responsible. The Portal is one of the possibilities to fulfil these new legal requirements and in the Commission’s view representsthe most effective way to support the single European rail market.

Establishment of the interim governance board for the European Rail Facilities Portal

The interim governance board consistsof an informal gathering of experts supported by the Commission servicesand, in order totransfer the ownership and management of the Portal to the rail industry,its main tasks are to:
  • Discuss and identify the governance structure and business model for the Portal that have the widest stakeholder support
  • Identify a Portal manager that agrees to take over the day-to-day operations and identify any requirements to the manager in terms of future development of the Portal services
  • Provide a reasonably detailed plan for achieving long-term sustainability of the Portal as part of the business model within a framework of four years
  • Address issues of legal and technical character such as prepare a draft agreement for transferring the Portal management and ownership and data confidentiality agreements

UIP is represented in the interim governance board service facility operators for the maintenance of rail freight wagons (ECM) to continue supporting the handover to a portal management entity and help develop a functioning business model.

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 2014EU Documents of interest

EU Documents of interest

Presentation State of Play Rail Facilities Portal – July 2019
European Parliament final report on the revision of the CT Directive – March 2019
Council general approach on the revision of the CT Directive – December 2018