Market Potential for International Rail-Based Intermodal Services in Europe: From Sea to Shining Sea

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - traffic, land use - planning, ridership - commuting, ridership - demand, organisation - competition, place - europe, mode - rail


Transportation policy, Railways, Railroads, Network analysis (Planning), Market share, Market demand, Market assessment, Level of service, Interoperability, International borders, Intermodal transportation, Intermodal systems, Goods movement, Freight traffic, Freight demand, European Union countries, Competition


This paper examines the market potential for international rail-based intermodal services along the REORIENT Corridor, which spans 11 countries from the Baltic (Scandinavia) to the Mediterranean (Greece) through the accession countries of the European Union. The main approach followed in this assessment is to conduct scenario analyses using a state-of-the-art intermodal freight network modeling capability, which allows the evaluation of various service supply strategies under varying operational and policy scenarios. New service design options, developed through a combination of market-based research and expert opinion, are evaluated in regard to the potential addressable market demand and the likelihood of successfully competing for that demand. The analyses provide realistic assessments of the potential competitiveness of rail in attracting freight demand resulting from (a) operational considerations that pertain to the proposed services and (b) implementation of interoperability directives and barrier-removing or barrier-reducing improvements in physical, operational, or managerial aspects and business practices of the rail system that are aimed toward achieving European Commission policy objectives. In addition, the analysis points to characteristics of the demand, which is most likely to shift toward rail, in regard to commodity types and geographic location. The key question the paper seeks to answer is under what operational and policy conditions can pan-European intermodal rail freight services be competitive? Results show that prerequisites for success are a combination of favorable rail policies and the intermodal operations’ high level of service.