Report: Multimodal Transportation Has a Future in Europe

Multimodal logistics moves freight by combining two or more transport modes. In this area, Europe still lags the more advanced U.S. market but has made steady progress. In its latest industrial research for the EMEA region Colliers International highlights a number of examples of established and emerging European multimodal platforms and discusses the drivers and prospects for multimodal logistics in Europe, concluding that there are reasons to be optimist for this mode of transportation going forward.

The future drivers of multimodal traffic in European corridors:

Mega Projects

Infrastructure is vital in enhancing the efficiency and competitiveness of multimodal transportation against trucking only. Most ongoing infrastructure projects in Europe concern upgrades of existing lines and platforms, like ports. Many European ports have set-out modal split targets and have embarked on ambitious infrastructure investment programmes to get there. Due to importance of maritime trade, ports have a clear role in facilitating the modal shift.

There are also some mega-projects: “The largest project in Europe is probably the Alpine-crossing between Switzerland and Italy – this is a key section of one of Europe’s most important trade corridor, connecting Northern Europe’s seaports with Northern Italy through Germany “said Bruno Berretta – Associate Director, EMEA Research at Colliers.

“The Gotthard Tunnel opened in 2016 and a second tunnel is being dug on the same line and will open in 2019 that will boost train traffic by ca. 60% from 160 to 260/day. This is will unlock opportunities for multimodal logistics, and we are reading seeing some operators stepping up investment in new facilities and interchange platforms along this corridor” Berretta concluded.

Paris Leads the Way

Multimodal logistics has a future within cities as well. While, lorries/vans dominate last-mile distribution due to their ubiquity/speed, planned bans/restrictions on vehicles in European city centres mean that road based distribution may not be sustainable at current levels in the future. Rail and waterways provide an alternative and will increasingly complement eco-friendly vehicles within the last-mile in cities.

“Paris is one of the leading European cities in this regard, having embarked on a strategic initiative to redevelop city logistics hubs around major rail transportation nodes and along the Seine. New development incorporates ‘logistic hotels’ into larger, mixed-use developments” said Berretta.

Ride the Green Wave

Multimodal transportation sometimes comes at an extra-cost due to transhipment operations, particularly over shorter distances. “Nonetheless, there is greater acceptance within the corporate world that the higher short-term costs associated with more sustainable transport solutions can be justified by the long-term benefits in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the fact that at some point more stringent environment regulation is likely to come into force” says Tim Davies, Head of EMEA.

Improving multi-modal infrastructure, the diminishing cost of technology and the ability to deliver scale will contribute to make multimodal (rail in particular) a more compelling proposition from an economic point of view as well.

See the full report here.

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