Frank Andreesen from Covestro GmbH
How would you define what a Rail Freight Corridor is and what would you want it to be?
From the interaction I have had with the Rail Freight Corridors and understanding of Regulation EU 913/2010, the RFCs are the backbone of our primary European freight railroads.The coordination and facilitation role of the RFCs is essential for the improvement of cross-border inter-operability, thus efficiency and reliability of European rail freight operations. Moving forward, I could well imagine that certain operational functions could be shared and hosted by the corridors, for the benefit of a simplified, more efficient and effective coordination of cross-border operations, but also to support a more European approach and thinking, fully embracing and implementing for example the learnings from Rastatt. International crisis management is the obvious function to be coordinated at corridor level, but I could well imagine other tactical functions, such as the establishment of a corridor-wide uniform quality and performance management.
What does the RFC-concept bring to your business?
That question is basically answered with my answer on the above question. Let me explain here that the RFCs are essentially “the supplier of the suppliers of our suppliers”. As such, we have only limited visibility of the actions and initiatives undertaken by the RFCs. However, having dealt with the RFCs more directly in my advocacy role, which I only started at the beginning of this year, I perceive the RFCs as performing a crucial potentially high value-adding role, being best positioned to overcome our interoperability and thus efficiency and reliability issues in rail freight.
When it comes to “value-adding”, the all-decisive criteria and goal must be the improvement of quality, i.e. reliability of rail freight operations. Compared to reliability of road transport, there is still a significant performance gap. Directionally, rail freight should aim to achieve the same level of punctuality as passenger transport does, which can only be achieved when rail freight is granted equal rights to passenger transport. We all know that this is not the case right now.
What has been your experience with ScanMed RFC so far, and how would you qualify it?
ScanMed RFC is hosting one of the strategically most important north-south links, serving as a bridge for our cargo to reach our customers in Italy. It is complemented by RFC Rhine-Alpine and both together are the logistical north-south backbone for our logistics operations in Europe. In particular, because on this route rail freight is our strategically preferred mode, already carrying the vast majority of our goods, compared to road transport, which is only under exceptional circumstances. Unfortunately we are currently, and for some time, far from satisfied with punctuality on ScanMed RFC-routes. As is also already pointed out in the ScanMed RFC Annual Report: “Punctuality needs drastic improvements”. To that effect we highly welcome the ScanMed RFC’s initiative of the establishment of quality circles, where representatives from Infrastructure Managers and Railway Undertakings are jointly analyzing causes of train delays and are defining improvement measures. We are really concerned with the current lack of quality, in particular the many delays caused by the ongoing construction work along the corridor, line closures and consequences suffered from the of longer diversionary routes.
Where would you like the network of Rail Freight Corridors to be in 10 years?
In 10 years the RFCs will have hopefully achieved the vast majority of objectives and implemented the vast majority of actions declared in the 2016 Rotterdam Sector Statement. We do realize that ERTMS implementation is defined on a time horizon of up to 2030. To achieve a seamless cross-border integration of rail freight there is still a long way to go. What is also important is to ensure very good inter-connectivity between RFCs. Our cargo does not always follow the natural path of one corridor but often runs on two or sometimes three corridors. Overall, we welcome a strengthening of the power of the RFCs, to ensure they are well positioned and able to perform their European role.