European forwarders, railroad associations target quality benchmarks
The International Union of Railways, the Community of European Railways, the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) and the European Association for Forwarding, Transport, Logistic and Customs Services (CLECAT) have signed a joint declaration to develop quality indicators in rail transportation in Europe.
“We hope that customers can sign contracts with railways with quality elements like a guarantee of timely delivery,” said Rene Zimmermann, manager in charge of the rail transport working group at FIATA, based in Glattbrugg, Switzerland.
The International Union of Railways, also known under the acronym UIC, includes railroads from around the world, but the service quality initiative will concern European railroads only, Zimmermann noted.
The industry organizations’ move is also designed to avoid potential regulations on rail freight quality considered by the European Commission.
The UIC and FIATA said they both agree an improvement in the quality of rail freight services, in an open market, “can only be introduced and developed” by the market players — not by regulators.
“Any intervention on the part of the European Union would distort the free play of market forces and consequently jeopardize the economic viability of the transport operations, with the railway undertakings liable to lose business as a result,” they warned.
The associations of rail providers and users said they have decided to cooperate to raise quality levels in international rail freight traffic, a long-standing issue in Europe. The proposed quality benchmarks “enshrine the customer’s right to incorporate quality parameters in individual contracts concluded with the railway undertakings, with the necessary consequences for both parties in the event of non-compliance,” the four associations said in the declaration. These indicators “offer a response to market demand and must also be realistically achievable,” they added.
In an initial phase, the associations want to start implementing the quality initiative with “block trains” (unit trains) for conventional and intermodal transportation. The next proposed phase would include groups of rail cars and less-than-trainload operations.
The UIC is planning to discuss the results of this joint work with other customer associations.