The European freight traffic is deeply concentrated and carried out on a few selected corridors as shown by the map:
The overall demand for rail freight traffic is expected to grow at a yearly average rate of approximately 3% to 2015. Concretely this means that, between 2002 and 2015, the rail network is to expect a 25% increase in terms of train numbers for the conventional traffic and a 86% increase in the number of combined transport trains (Source: Capacity Study 2004 and DIOMIS 2007).
The railways’ aim is to ensure that the forecast growth is absorbed by the infrastructure network. Yet we know already that even if all planned investments in infrastructure take place, there will be bottlenecks of part of the network (Source: Diomis 2007). It is thus absolutely important that all actors involved in rail transport take the necessary steps to ensure modal shift is realized. Measures to ensure this happens are explained in DIOMIS as well as in ERIM.
ERIM (European Rail Infrastructure Masterplan) is a high-level infrastructure supply side overview of major international rail corridors and the ERIM network covers 50 000 route-km of railway within and between 32 countries as illustrated in the map above. In order to analyse whether the additional 2020 infrastructure provision (planned by each Railway) is sufficient to carry the future traffic growth of about 3%, ERIM has estimated the capacity utilisation, section by section and has assessed that about one third of the ERIM network may face capacity constraints to meet the foreseeable business needs in 2020.
The infrastructure planning, to improve e.g. the operational / infrastructural interoperability and capacity provision, can be done according to network- or corridor approach.
A number of lines (routes) serving a defined space which are interconnected to enable traffic to be routed to various destinations from various points of origin.
A selected segment of a network (generally linear in character) connecting nominated origin, destination and intermediate points which exhibit strong traffic inter-relationships. Rail routes can be divided into three categories according to their use:
- Conventional line: Shared line between passenger and freight operators
- Freight dedicated line: exclusively reserved for freight-only traffic (rarely exists)
- Freight oriented line: Passenger and freight traffic carried but planning increasingly oriented towards accommodating freight needs.