The both enterprises and consumers are even more aware of environmental and social impact their decisions cause. Changing market environment and advanced technologies may enable developing more sustainable and competitive transportation system, particularly in cases, where we are able to combine individual transportation modes together as seamless chains. Several European actors see, that there exists a need for continuously developing combined transportation system, that we are able to meet the requirements and demand, and in current situation even up to 90% decrease of CO2 emissions is achievable in door-to-door- delivery chains. In theory, current technology makes it possible to have zero-emissions chains already, but UIRR has defined a roadmap for investments to reach Zero Carbon Transportation on system level by 2050 based on combined transport. Although invidual modes work well traditionally in several situations, we cannot continue the development of transportation system on silos. The argument here is not enhance combined transportation itself, but to note that efficient and sustainable transportation in the future may develop towards the Physical Internet vision, which is also a backbone in our international network of collaborative innovation such as on ALICE’s Roadmap Towards Zero Emissions Logistics. The last paper has a viewpoint that ”transportation modes are smartly used and COMBINED”.
National railway company VR is searching solutions and is now opening a new service to exploit the market opportunity
For a long time, several shippers have missed for at least Helsinki-Oulu main train with a suitable daily schedule, and on which transportation units can be easily and effectively loaded. The service has not been available for 10 years due to the several reasons, which even may possible be technical in nature. However, the national railway company VR is now looking for a solution and plans to open a daily trunk connection to both directions carrying trailers and containers between Helsinki Vuosaari and Oulu Oritkari harbours at the beginning of 2024. We have now an understanding, that we will get an overview of this new plan including prices, schedules and other key features latest by 25th of October, when VR’s Kirsi Klemola will have a speech (in Finnish) on LOGY’s webinar ”new transportations routes” (14:00-16:00 EET). Even this one trunk line can indicate and be a significant part of the rebirth of intermodal transport in Finland, and contribute to the efficiency and competitiveness of our transportation system and progress it towards zero emissions.
In the previous service model decade ago, trucks were driven onto and off the train (accompanied CT), while the new service is based on lifting containers and trailers on the train (unaccompanied CT). While the service has been out of use, the allowed weights and dimensions for trucks have changed, and the old rolling stock is apparently not relevant in the same way. On the other hand, the new unaccompanied service model follows the trend observed in the rest of Europe, although on BSL’s report (2020) regarding the rest of Europe they have noted that accompanied service model could be applicable regionally and for special purposes. By the way, the same report includes forecast that estimates a relatively strong growth for CT in the forthcoming decade, without taking into account cyclicality of economy. However, the now re-opening service by VR is interesting, because it can raise our awareness of importance of modularization of transportation system and the compatibility of the fleet with internation chains in a new way here in Finland, when we believe the HCT discussion we often have is based on experiences and models of the material flows within the country only.
Developing transportation system requires a joint vision
Finland has finally agreed to have a long-term transport system planning in 2019. In the long-term development of transportation infrastructure, it is important to have a clear vision beyond election periods and cycles in the economy, even though they can naturally affect the emphasis and timing of some investments. While the current National Transport System Plan 2021-2032 seeks to combine transportation modes and connect our system to international networks and approaches, in the Implementation Plan this is not reflected well enough: for example, it lacks the both development of freight terminal network and progression towards the Physical Internet (which is neither noted even in National Logistics Digitalization Strategy), even though Transport System Plan mentions the importance to explore opportunities raised by combined transport well.
Within LIMOWA network, we have indentified the need to agree planning of terminal network together. For example, the terminus of new service offered by VR now, Vuosaari, is not considered optimal for several transportation chains from Uusimaa to Northern Finland. Neither the Kouvola RRT – although being on international scale – cannot operate alone. The both Vuosaari and Kouvola RRT are, however, important individual nodes in our system. On the other hand, while companies have raised up the need to have terminal connecting rail and road networks in northern part of Greater Helsinki Region, there does not exist a jointly agreed location and reservation on different layers of zoning plans. The potential terminal located in Central Uusimaa will serve also for more schedule-critical deliveries – if we first have data which shipments actually have to be prioritized.
From the perspective of the entire network, it is also essential to understand how international traffic is organized, what are the routes and directions for each cargo type in the future, and what kinds of fleet and equipment operations are using. LIMOWA is happy to participate international cooperation to connect Finland’s transportation flows to RailBaltica, other routes over Baltic Sea to Central and Western Europe, as well as, for example via Turku, Vaasa and/or Bothnian Arc to Sweden and other Nordics and from there to even larger markets across the new developing land bridge through opening Fehmarn tunnel, by taking into account its effects to the whole Nordic intermodal system together with our peers. Then we are also able to understand the enhancements of the neighboring countries’s systems, the modularized units, as well as, the the rapidly developing vehicle technology with its different sources of power. In any case, it is still matter of getting the different modes of transport to work together, and LIMOWA can and will do its part to manage the conversation so that our transport system moves towards more sustainable and competitive direction. Different viewpoints from varying parties are valuable here, and LIMOWA can keep the discussions on track that can lead towards implementation plans needed.