There are various forms of transport in use today. Some of these forms of transportation are rail, water, road, and air. The means of transport include trains, airplanes, vehicles, boats, ships, among others. Rail transport is the movement of people, livestock, or commodities from one region to another using a train through a railway line. Rail transport is said to have been invented after the invention of steam engines.
The first railway line was therefore made by laying down steel tracks, which were then connected with wood on the lower side of the metal tracks to help increase the stability and to enhance the alignment of the locomotive as it moved along the tracks.
After their creation in the 18th century, steam engines became a major factor in the industrial revolution in the 19th century (Tatum, 2009). Railway transport has not only become a very important means of transport for industrial goods and agricultural commodities, but it has also been over the years, a transport choice for human beings in several countries. Railway transport has, without doubt, been a major contributor to the development of major world economies such as the United States in the 19th century.
In the first half of the 20th-century, rail transport continued to advance, and these advancements were brought about by the renovations made to the steam engines. These refined engines allowed the trains to carry more goods and people.
The invention of the electrical locomotives helped a lot in increasing the speed of the trains, which in turn increased people’s preference for railway transport. After World War II, the discovery of the diesel engines made railway transport become a suitable transport option. The invention of motor vehicles brought about intense competition in the transport sector.
There were analysts who even predicted a possible collapse of the railway transport, but this has not yet happened, especially because railways have remained an important means of transport in most countries, particularly when heavy commodities are to be transported (Tatum, 2009)
The future potential of rail transport and the possibility of having it transporting non-bulky commodities
European Rail Research Advisory Council (ERRAC) was started in Cologne; it addressed the challenges of better service provision, better movement, quality service provision, interoperability, and improved productivity. The findings predicted that by the year 2020, the railway sector would be handling double the passenger and goods market and triple the passenger and goods volume.
According to Commissioner Busquin, there can not be a sustainable means of transport in Europe without an efficient railway system. Building a modern railway system in Europe will involve a lot of modern regulations as well as a lot of research in the rail sector so as to come up with new technologies to run the system.
The European Commissioner for Energy Mrs. Loyola de Palacio declared that the strategic agenda would be in accordance with the European transport policy that opts for the existence of one rail market as well as increasing rail transport competitiveness with other modes of transport in Europe (Innovations report, 2009).
Research done by the organization showed that the rail sector produced 290 billion passenger-kilometers worthy of business in 1998; 6% of this represented travelers (Booz and company, 2008). In the goods sector, 241 billion tonnes were transported by rail in 1998.
The Rail Company in Europe provides employment for about one million people while the European rail industry provides employment for about one hundred and thirty thousand people. The European rail supply industries hold about 60% of the global market, and this could explain why a lot of money is spent by the supply businesses on research aimed at increasing transportation safety and efficiency.
According to a survey done by Booz and company (2008), rail transport has been showed to be trail behind rod transport that seems to have about three-quarters of the total market share despite the fact that it faces many more challenges than the railway transport.
About 75%of the people surveyed showed that the services provided by the rail sector were efficient and they were satisfied, the companies surveyed revealed that they transport about 48% of their total freight via the railway network and they are hoping to increase the amount in the future. Others surveyed were rather skeptical about the ability of the current rail capacity to handle their future demands.
The stability of the rail transport market in the short-medium term
The European rail company has a potential for growth, but a number of issues need to be looked into; increasing the speed of movement and improving the reliability of the rail sector; lowering the cost of freight in order for it to take part of large market share owned by the road transport; the sector also needs to look into the specific requirements by customers regarding the transportation means that they are in need of.
In addition, rail transport companies need to increase their capacities so as to be able to handle the increasing demand. For the rail freight sector to develop in the future, its objectives should be to put in place a cost-effective, environmentally healthy, and efficient means of transport that will be able to replace the road transport.
The transport system also needs to widen the railway network, improve its capacity and management, and increase its performance ability, particularly in international transport. The European railway can also consider investing in modern locomotives with high capabilities, modern transportation wagons, and rail structures that are consistent with the needs of international rail transport (Booz and Company, 2009).
The type of commodities transported by rail
Rail transport has, over the years, been known as the main transporter of bulk commodities such as grain, coal, fertilizer, chemicals, construction materials, petroleum products, among others. Railway transport has been used when the goods in transit are nonperishable, or they do not perish easily. This is normally so because railway transport is normally slow and can therefore not be used to transport highly perishable goods.
When the goods to be transported over the land are dangerous and can result in accidents, for instance, petrol, it may be wise that rail transport is used since railway lines are never congested and therefore accidents are rare, and if they occur, few people are likely to be hurt.
This is also true since the tracks are normally out of bounds for human beings. In terms of carriage capacity, rail freight still has the highest, making it a suitable choice of transport where large volumes of goods are to be transported.Other goods transported by rail include passengers, automobiles.
Rail plays a significant role in the European economy despite the current difficulties it is facing. In 2004 alone, rail transport generated about euro 60 billion and added about thirty-four billion to the European economy (European Communities, 2008). Rail transport is environmentally friendly and is also safer compared to other means of transport.
In some market areas, rail is cheaper and better than both air and road. Rail has chances for future development because the continued pressure on land use could interfere with the development of other transport means in the future. The globalization of trade is also likely to increase the demand for rail transport.This will be as a result of the transportation of bulky goods over long distances.
Possibilities of railway transport expansion into new market sectors
The prospects for development in the rail sector have been hampered by the lack of reliability and orientation to the demands of the customer. The railway sector has also been affected adversely by the strong political influence on it. This makes it difficult to make proper decisions and put into action the necessary implementations wherever possible.
The is a need to harmonize the operations and activities of the various railway networks available in the country; if the networks could be united into a single unit, the operational cost will be reduced, efficiency will be increased, and marketing of the sectors services will be effective and cheaper.
The management strategies in use by the rail sector are outdated and need to be changed; the mode of operation also needs to be current for it to become efficient and in line with the customer’s needs. The railway transport seems to hold just 15% of the total transport market share; this makes it rather difficult for the sector to make crucial advancements into the future.
In order to meet its challenges and make advancements, European rail needs to develop a high level of efficiency in its operations; it also needs to modernize its locomotives. In addition, it also needs to respond to the demands on the mode and quality of service needed by the customers.
There is a need to build a new modern railway network, to enlarge the railway market so as to increase competition and to modernize the railway line or infrastructure to increase efficiency and to use modern technology in order to increase efficiency and safety of the passengers (European Communities, 2008).
The reasons for a possible realignment away from the road and towards rail freight transport
Across the globe, the changes in the climatic patterns, increased temperatures, rising sea levels, and the disappearance of oceanic islands are being felt. All these are as a result of global warming – a consequence of the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is normally caused by greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide gas and methane.
Carbon dioxide gas is normally a by-product of the combustion of petroleum products such as diesel and petrol used by most of the locomotives. There are calls for environmental conservation and reduction in the release of the pollutants into the atmosphere, and one of the targeted areas is the transport sector.
There are a lot of personal, industrial, and public service vehicles in operation, which contribute a lot to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The railway sector has been found to release less carbon dioxide gas and is their fore environmentally friendlier than road transport (European Monitoring center on change, 2009).
There is a possibility that rail transport may gain a preference for road transport in the future. This is possible because as the need to reduce global warming increases, countries may opt for it instead of other means of transport that pollute the environment more.
The world’s population is increasing at a fast rate, and soon there may be no ample packing space in towns and cities; there may also be a need to reduce the congestions on the roads. This may drive countries into improving and expanding their railway sector so as to cater to its people’s transportation.
Increased oil prices have been experienced internationally, and this is making the road transport to be more expensive compared to rail, a situation that is likely to make users shift from the use of the road to rail for transportation services. Railway transport has become a faster means of movement, particularly when the roads are roads are characterized by congestion and traffic jams (EMCC, 2008).
Railway transport is here to stay and is likely to become a transport of choice in the near future. This is because it is safer, does not experience any congestion, is environmentally friendly, and has the capability of future expansion, unlike the roads that are likely to be limited by the land constraints.
The European rail is an employer of many people, and it contributes a lot of money to the European economy every year. It will, therefore, be important that certain adjustments are made to its management and operations to make it more competitive and efficient.
Some of these improvements include the building of a new railway network, harmonization of the operations of the networks, modernizations of the management, purchase of new modern locomotives, and paying keen attention to the market trends so as to know what the consumers want. Through the proper use of its railway network, Europe will be able to decongest its roads and improve transport (Lowe, 2009, p. 54).
Innovations report (2009) On Track for Better Rail Transport in Europe: the EU Strategic Rail Research Agenda. (Online).
Booz & co. (2008) European Rail Freight Survey 2008. (Online).
European Business (2007) Freight transport in Europe. (Online).
Trends and drivers of change (2008) EMCC dossier on the European transport and logistics sector. (Online).
Malcolm, T. (2009) What Is Rail Transport? (Online).