Friday 29 June 2012
Railway Research

SPECTRUM – the EU Funded FP7 project to develop rail freight services to match seamlessly with customer supply chains

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On 13 and 14 June, the full SPECTRUM consortium project met for the second time. The meeting, which was held in Budapest, also included the first meeting of the SPECTRUM Advisory Board, chaired by UIC, which also leads the Work Package on Dissemination.

The objective of this meeting was to achieve a common understanding of the work completed to date since the start of this 4-year project in June 2011, and the work to be completed in the near future. In addition to this, the first annual meeting of the Advisory Board was designed to attract constructive criticism from its members, in order to strengthen the project moving forward.

The aim of the SPECTRUM freight project is to develop rail freight services to match seamlessly with customer supply chains. The project will determine how to effectively integrate low density, high value, time-sensitive freight services with existing passenger services, without detriment to both service types and taking into consideration operational, technological and logistics requirements.

During this first year of the project, WP1 on Market Research, the consortium members have identified, analysed and segmented the logistics market. Rather than discounting all the sectors that rail freight currently can’t address, the objective has been to identify the areas where volumes and growth are good, alternative modes are weak and customers are free and looking for alternatives. This analysis provided goals and targets, and builds the first pass economic model, the potential, the nature and shape of the service-offerings that are demanded by the market.

The project has also looked at the potential market areas where SPECTRUM could focus on and where the market share for rail could be enlarged. Some of the results are visualised in the following graph - Selection of LDHV goods:

[see graph 1]

Many different trends have been taken into account during this analysis, such as:

  • General trends such as economic growth, globalisation of trade, urbanisation and the pressure to reduce carbon emissions, waste and resources
  • Supply chain & logistics trends, such as changes in production systems, shift of Chinese industries to the west and city logistics
  • Transport trends such as new freight transport systems and intelligent transport systems (ITS) and the emphasis on safety and security
  • Rail sector trends such as a more efficient use of existing infrastructure, the increasing need to integrate passenger and freight transport and high speed systems

An analysis was recently conducted on the possible transport demand throughout the different sectors of freight transport and on the areas in which there would be an opportunity for a “SPECTRUM type” of LDHV rail freight:

[see graph 2]

One of the conclusions was that there would be a 12% growth potential for the rail freight sector in LDHV cargo. However, if this were to really happen, it would soon lead to a capacity problem!

During the second day of the meeting there was a workshop-type event where all consortium and Advisory Group members worked in 5 separate groups of 8 – 9 persons dealing with a gap-analysing exercise focused on the issues of business models, quality & planning, performance & service quality, and wagons & loading units and traction. Participants had to score on a scale of 1 – 5 as to how far the present situation is removed from the envisaged goal (gap), how easy it would be to transform to the preferred situation and how big or small the economic potential (including investment and other issues) would be necessary to reach the targets. This exercise led to interesting points to possibly focus on.

During the WP2 on System concept development, for which the work has recently started, consortium members have started to focus on the assessment of existing and near to market transport systems and technologies and the capacity management to meet demand for new logistics service as well as to conceptualise and design (at a broad level) the nature of 2 – 3 systems to deliver the ’offering’, an integrated vision, a concept of how logistics, operations, infrastructure and vehicles need to integrate to deliver the high service levels expected.

Logically this WP will be followed by Work packages on Design, Demonstration and finally Synthesis.

A summary of the interesting work of WP1 will soon be available for public dissemination. For any further information please contact Dennis Schut at the UIC Dept. for Fundamental Values – Research Unit – and check the SPECTRUM FP7 project website regularly at

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