Rail and transport federations come together to support mobility

12 July 2019

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Febetra and the Belgian Rail Freight Forum have joined forces to launch a concrete proposal to boost mobility in Belgium. They are calling for compensation for hauliers who move their cargo from road to rail – an operation that is still too expensive at present. This measure could help hauliers to relieve congestion by taking 750,000 lorries off the roads each year. According to both organisations, it is crucial that road and rail transport is combined to keep Belgium moving and to safeguard its position at the forefront of logistics.

The future of mobility in Belgium is far from rosy. We already spend a lot of time stuck in traffic, some 44 hours per driver per year on average. [1] With a 27% increase in freight transport by 2040, this problem will only get worse.[2] To prevent a complete standstill in the near future, urgent attention needs to be devoted to developing a sustainable and intelligent transport mix where cargo is carried not just by road but also partly by rail or on inland waterways.

Philippe Degraef, Director of Febetra: “Road hauliers and rail operators are thinking more and more in terms of modal complementarity. This mental switch was turned on a while ago. Now it’s a case of converting this into action.”

And that is where the problem lies. Road hauliers certainly want to transfer some of their traffic to rail or inland waterways, but they are having to shelve these plans for cost reasons. Transferring goods to rail involves another operation and this means an extra operational cost of EUR 40 on average.[3] What is more, investment in specific infrastructure and equipment is desperately needed. 

Febetra and the Belgian Rail Freight Forum are convinced that a lot more road hauliers would be more inclined to develop multimodal services on both short-distance and long-haul routes if the current cost handicap were removed. This will require the following:

  • support measures for road hauliers who invest in appropriate infrastructure or equipment, such as reach stackers, containers and multimodal trailers, etc.
  • compensation for the transshipment cost in the form of a cheque for EUR 40 for every unit that a road haulier switches to rail or to another sustainable mode.

Paul Hegge, representative of the Belgian Rail Freight Forum: “A transshipment cheque is a way for the government to compensate road hauliers for transferring to and from the most efficient mode of transport. This will enable us to take 750,000 trucks a year off the roads in Belgium and to avoid the loss of 1,000 hours a day in traffic jams.

Finally, the Belgian Rail Freight Forum and Febetra are keen to emphasise that both proposals will have a positive impact on the modal shift, congestion and the environment.


[1] For the source, please refer to the memorandum of the Belgian Rail Freight Forum.

[2] Source: Federal Planning Bureau (2019)

[3] A joint study by Febetra and the Belgian Rail Freight Forum estimated the average transshipment cost at EUR 40 per handling operation per unit (from truck to train, or vice versa).

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