Combined rail-road transport : how to adapt to the “next world ” ?

Combined rail-road transport, also called piggyback transport, is particularly suitable for optimizing management of the last kilometer and improving the quality of service provided to customers. Let's discover together what it is, and how this solution will become essential in the adaptation of the logistics sector after the coronavirus health crisis.

The French shipping company Brittany Ferries recently announced the launch of a piggyback line between the port of Cherbourg (Manche) and Bayonne (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) by April 2021. This will allow the transport by rail of heavy goods vehicle trailers to the Spanish border, to ensure better connectivity of the territories, and with a view to strengthening cross-border trade. In 2019, occupied road transport had almost 70\ of the French transport market (in terms of tons of goods transported). The objective of piggyback transport is simple : complete the transport  rail thanks to road transport. It promotes a circular economy and is faster, with trains running at 120 km / h on average. These allow deliveries in just 24 hours, to the four corners of France, and emit less CO2 particles. Since the Covid-19 crisis, the focal point has never been so close, leading to a massive transfer of freight on combined rail / road transport. Let's discover together everything you need to know about piggyback transport, and its main challenges facing the "next world" !

Piggyback transport, an ecological alternative to sustainably support growth

Two major issues arise today for multimodal trade : combining economic recovery and the ecological imperative. To achieve a positive response to these two imperatives, combined rail-road transport serves as an example for several reasons. Overall, it reduces CO2 emissions by 85\ compared to exclusively road transport, as well as air pollution. Also, the transport of hazardous materials is better ensured by rail. Finally, it does little damage to natural landscapes, and limits negative externalities on biodiversity. 

Similarly, it helps to decongest the highway infrastructure, often saturated because of the widespread inventory management just-in. The appearance of numerous bottlenecks generates a surplus of pollution which should be avoided. Thus, projects to rebalance between modes of transport are increasing in favor of iron.

Using a TMS can also prove to be very useful for managing and streamlining the entire transport management process, and thus controlling costs as well as possible.

Piggyback transport, a useful solution to promote the resumption of economic activity

To meet rising demand, many shippers and carriers have decided to adapt their offer. The quality of train paths and rail service is an absolutely essential criterion for the resumption of economic activity.

Thus, it is a flexible and reliable formula for customers wishing to ship goods " from door to door ", since it combines the capacity of the road to serve the entire territory and the suitability of the rail to carry out long distance transport at low cost . In addition to the fall in wage costs, it allows better compliance with road regulations, and gives access to an extensive network authorizing transport over long distances.  

Iron is less sensitive to unforeseen events such as bad weather, and does not depend on traffic congestion. Thus, it often manages to reach a higher service rate than all-road for long journeys. Finally, piggyback transport guarantees a more secure working environment, contributes to the reduction of road accidents, and the limitation of disruptions in the supply chain.

Many unions also expect a plan public massive investment s to modernize infrastructure and support the whole sector. In this context, it is therefore necessary to further deepen the conditions for intermodality, and to give more space to freight activities.

How to rethink combined rail-road transport after the Covid-19 crisis ? 

Since the start of the Covid-19 epidemic, combined rail-road traffic has refocused on the transport of essential goods such as food, medical equipment, etc. Following this crisis, it is possible to truly draw the consequences of the changes undergone by our economy, to contribute to the growth of the sector.

We are thus seeing the arrival of new shippers from mass retailers who had not previously been involved in combined transport. This rapidly increases the transport capacity of the sector, since a single train contains the equivalent of 60 trucks! Also, the amount of rail-road flow continues to expand with a thrill on the side of the automobile. 

At the same time, passenger traffic limitation s for SNCF releases many slots for cargo. Many carriers expect competition pressure to intensify in the coming months. The question arises of the ability of combined transport operators to keep new shippers recently entered the market, when traffic has returned to its usual rate on.

Although piggyback transport still remains largely perfectible in France, it is gradually gaining ground in the national logistics landscape. It is still difficult to compete with heavy goods vehicles and road transport, but benefits from better consideration of environmental issues by all professionals in the sector. You can also find the latest news and challenges in the sector on Supply Chain Info, the media dedicated to optimizing your supply chain, your logistics strategy or your transport plan. 


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