Future Environmental Performance of Swiss Freight Transport – Impacts on Rail Cargo Competitiveness (FPFT)

Rail freight transport has a substantial potential for contributing to the decarbonization of Swiss freight transport. It is highly electrified and relies on renewable energy sources to generate the required electricity, thus quite attractive from an ecological perspective. However, rail freight transport is confronting challenges to maintain its competitiveness in the market. On one hand, investments are needed to renovate the ageing infrastructure and provide new rolling stock. On the other hand, market developments and the changing policy/regulatory environment may destabilize the competitive position of rail freight transport, while technological advances such as digitalization and autonomous vehicles may have disruptive effects on the cost structure of road and rail freight transport. These challenges call for strategic reactions from rail freight operators, especially SBB Cargo, in order to survive in the future competitive freight market, as well as for consistent policies that adequately reflect the environmental performance of different transport modes.

This research proposal outlines a systemic perspective for analyzing the main challenges and dynamics of rail freight transport and tries to assess different pathways for the decarbonization of the Swiss freight transport system with a special focus on the competition and the synergies between road and rail freight transportation. System dynamics modeling (SDM) is proposed as a powerful approach for analyzing the nonlinear and complex relationships of the freight transport system. Participatory model building is used to build the structure of the system by mapping the mental models of the primary stakeholders. Then, simulations are used to investigate scenarios for the future development of the freight transport system and the most critical parameters for changing its behavior and facilitating the decarbonization process.

The anticipated results of this research can help SBB Cargo understand how the main dynamics of its business environment are vulnerable to challenges beyond its control and how different strategies could contribute to resolving future challenges. The results could also be important for policymakers and regulators, since they provide a scientific basis for understanding the ecological aspect of developments in the freight transport system and highlighting the most critical factors for accelerating the decarbonization of freight transport in Switzerland.


Point of contact

Prof. Dr. Konstantinos Boulouchos
Aerothermochemistry and Combustion Systems Laboratory

Dr. Amin Dehdarian
Learning Lab - Future Transport Systems L2-FTS

Start | duration

10.2018 (24 months)


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