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Rail freight transportation is undergoing a complete digital overhaul. Bernd Hullerum, CEO of Transfesa Logistical, describes how new technologies are allowing for greater operational efficiency and reduced logistics costs, all while providing exceptional customer service and customised door-to-door delivery. Freight transport plays a significant role in the European Union's (EU) economy, contributing to industrial and service competitiveness. The recently released study by the Transport and Logistics Observatory, as cited in the press, reveals that during the past several years, the total tonne-kilometer volume of road, rail, and inland waterways is roughly 2.3 billion (this number accounts for all waterways that can be measured). Given that road transport still accounts for 75% of overall traffic, the European Commission hopes to encourage more efficient and sustainable forms of business communication while also rebalancing the modes. Rail transportation is critical on this route to ‘eco-transport.' The EU has set a target of gradually increasing its contribution to 30% by 2030. This would remove one million trucks from the road and 290 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere. According to their predictions, by 2050, this number should have risen to above 50%.

In compared to other means of transportation, rail travel has several advantages. Consignments, because to their lower prices, are preferred over road and air delivery services, which are rather expensive in comparison. On the other hand, rail services have the lowest emissions, which makes them very environmentally friendly. External costs are also lower with rail transportation (contamination, saturation, accidents, etc.). For example, Rail Freight Forward (a partnership of rail carriers in Europe which aims at substantially lowering the negative impact on the earth and mobility of freight transport) reveals that rail travel consumes six times less energy than road transport, eight times less pollutant.

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This expanded role for rail in European logistics comes at a time when the continent is undergoing significant digital revolution. In Transfesa Logistics, we have long been working on developing technologies like mobile apps, cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, and big data. These tools will be instrumental in bringing more competitive railways, as well as enhancing the effects of moving towards a smart supply chain, where the impact will be impossible to measure at the moment. All of these developments will give useful information for strategic choices and more personalized services. They will also assist in achieving specific objectives such as energy savings, operational planning, cost reduction, and so on.

The opportunities are boundless (allowing us to trace, locate, and digitally store our assets, track customer information, deliver personally tailored orders, etc.), but there are also substantial difficulties because the industry must catch up to the digital era, which has come about with such speed that delivery service providers now must swiftly transition to all digital. In order to improve the share of rail freight transit, as well as to simplify and optimize logistics and safety operations, it is imperative that these new advancements be implemented.

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