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Europe-Asia rail freight volumes could hit 742,000 TEU in 2027: study



RAIL freight volume between Europe and Asia is forecast to rise by 14.7 per cent per annum over the next decade to total 636,000 TEU in 2027, up from 141,000 TEU in 2016, according to a study called, "Eurasian rail corridors: what opportunities for freight stakeholders?" conducted by Roland Berger consulting group in cooperation with UIC.

The study presented a best and worst forecast. According to the data, total Eurasian rail freight volumes could reach 742,000 TEU at best, or, considering less favourable conditions, 437,000 TEU in 2027.

It also reveals which factors could lead to this growth. In making these estimates, it considered the northern routes via Russia and Kazakhstan and the southern routes via Turkey and Iran. The latter are already operations, but regular services have not yet been established, reported Railfreight.com, Breda, Netherlands.

As rail freight has lost competitiveness with the sea freight alternative in terms of costs, the potential is seen in stronger consolidation and better balance of operations. Shippers need more reliability and better information on arrival times. Eastbound traffic must be developed further and as volumes are increasing, potential bottlenecks should be avoided though tailored coordination of traffic flows, the study asserted.

On European freight corridors, a lot of challenges remain. Harmonisation is the main challenge, as border crossings are currently lengthy and procedures are complicated.

Improvements can especially be made at the important border crossing in Poland. Additional personnel should be employed here. In the broader field, more intensive exchange between the players involved across borders is needed to improve interoperability on the European corridors.

On the southern routes, a lot remains to be done. Whereas infrastructure on the northern routes is largely in place, traffic via Turkey and Iran will see a boost as new lines are constructed and price incentives are introduced.

Several initiatives are currently underway to support this development, such as a new double gauge electrified 9,000 kilometre line in Iran and Afganistan, and a new railway service between Mersin in Turkey and Tehran, operated by Railcargo as soon as next month.

For the northern routes, there are three major entry points into Europe, all gateways of the important European Rail Freight Corridors (RFCs). The North-Sea Baltic corridor with the border-crossing terminal of Malaszewicze/Brest is the most important gateway and is expected to maintain this position, with an estimated share of 50 per cent of all Eurasian traffic in 2027.

The Mediterranean and Rhine-Danube or Czech ?Slovak corridors are currently of limited use due to political uncertainty in Ukraine. However, if this conflict ends, these routes could account for a third of all traffic in ten years.

For the southern routes through Turkey and Iran, the Orient ?East Mediterranean corridor via Romania and Bulgaria is the most important gateway to Europe. However, the southern routes represent a much smaller proportion of total Eurasian freight volumes and this is expected to remain so in the future, with a forecasted share of eight per cent in 2027.

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