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The Warsaw Voice » Business » March 27, 2013
Business & Economy
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Fashion for Intermodal Freight
March 27, 2013   
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Intermodal rail transportation, in which trains are one link in the transportation chain, could increase by 50 percent in Poland next year.

The Polish rail freight transportation market is the most liberal in Europe and highly competitive, with more than 50 businesses active in the sector. However, freight transportation by rail is declining in Poland while the amount of cargo carried by trucks is steadily rising, even though rail transportation is safer and more environmentally friendly. By 2030, the EU wants at least 30 percent of freight transported on roads over distances of more than 300 kilometers to be shifted to other modes of transportation, such as rail and inland waterways. By 2050, it wants the figure to reach 50 percent.

Despite the general downward trend in rail freight, intermodal transportation seems to be unaffected. Intermodal transportation combines multiple modes of transportation with freight shipped, for example, by sea to a port, then by rail from the port to a train station or a siding and then by truck to the final destination. Data from the Office of Rail Transportation shows that last year, providers of intermodal freight services shipped almost 8.1 million metric tons of cargo in containers, which was an impressive 36.4 percent up on 2011. Despite the sharp increase, intermodal rail transportation only accounts for 4.5 percent of all rail traffic in Poland. In comparison, the figure is 30 percent in Germany and around 60 percent in Norway.

According to experts from the TOR Transport Consultants Group, in order to stimulate the development of rail transportation, Poland needs efficient railroad infrastructure management, higher quality infrastructure and friendly government policies. Polish railroad infrastructure is administered by the PKP PLK company, which has begun to optimize its costs and the next move could be to concentrate on changes in the way fees are charged for access to railroad infrastructure. Several EU countries are testing out price lists based on the price elasticity of demand for different commodity groups.

In Poland, the price of access to railroad infrastructure would depend on whether or not a given type of cargo can be easily shifted from trains to other modes of transportation. Commodities with low to no price elasticity of demand, that is, those which cannot be transported on roads, would give the infrastructure administrator higher margins. As a result, freight with high price elasticity of demand, such as intermodal containers and other intermodal units, could be subject to preferential rates.

Experts believe that, after new regulations are introduced, intermodal rail transportation in Poland could increase almost 50 percent next year. That would mean higher profits for transportation companies and extra revenues for the infrastructure administrator. Such regulations are being introduced in Britain and Germany. Railroad-friendly policies in Poland with variable prices for access to infrastructure could, according to TOR experts, cause external transportation costs to fall by up to zl.2.7 billion in 2014-2022.

Intermodal rail transportation in Poland was provided by nine licensed operators last year, including PKP Cargo, PKP LHS, Lotos Kolej, DB Schenker Rail Polska, CTL Express and CTL Logistics, Rail Polska, STK and Majkoltrans. But just two of those, PKP Cargo and Lotos Kolej, are the key players on the market. Last year, PKP Cargo accounted for 70.6 percent of all intermodal rail transportation by weight and Lotos Kolej for 21.3 percent.
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