Organization of transport and mobility for people and goods
This fact sheet deals with the challenges of organizing transport and mobility, for both people and goods. The answers to medium- and long-term energy challenges (availability and price, climate change, national or European independence) cannot be found in technology alone. This is a widely shared belief. A forward-looking study by Predit (the Land Transport Research and Innovation Program) even estimates that technology will make it possible to achieve about half of the factor 4 by 2050, unless there is a breakthrough that is not yet perceptible. The other half will be found in travel practices and methods (numbers, distances, modes, vehicle occupancy, etc.), for both goods and passengers. In this respect, it is useful to distinguish between mobility services, whose supply can and must increase in the medium term, and individual or collective behavior, whose evolution may be slower and depend on structural data, such as spatial planning or production processes. First, however, we shall examine possible progress in transport operations, particularly through the use of information and communication technologies, the potential of which is currently only very partially exploited or even known.
I. Operation and management of transportation systems
1. Information and Communication Technologies and Road Traffic Management
By information and communication technologies useful to transportation, we mean: geolocation, through the American GPS (Global Positioning System) system, and in a few years through the European Galileo system (4 satellites launched in 2011 and 2012, first services in 2014, 30 satellites by 2020), communication technologies (radar, cell phones, transmitter tags) and information technologies. Their application to land transport began in the 1980s and today concerns the fields of safety (speed control, automated enforcement), navigation assistance, traffic management, goods tracking and user information. As far as the fight against climate change is concerned, the main progress is expected in traffic management and flow regulation, assistance for economical driving, and information on timetables to encourage the use of public transport and intermodality.
2. Rail Operations
In addition to equipment improvements, the rail system can achieve energy savings by optimizing its operating system. Information and communication technologies (ICT) now allow efficient management of train paths to optimize infrastructure capacity while allowing trains to run smoothly, reducing successive decelerations and accelerations. This optimization also includes the widespread use of eco-driving, which is also greatly facilitated by the possibilities offered by ICT and geolocation. Logically, an efficient system for optimizing rail operations will evolve towards the total automation of train movements, at least on the major routes.
For freight transport, train paths could be saved by using long (up to 1500 m, compared to 750 m today) and heavy trains. Before this can be done, suitable braking systems must be developed, as well as reliable means of remote control of locomotives that would be inserted in the middle of the convoy.
Beyond the intrinsic gains of the rail system, optimizing the circulation of trains favors modal shift to rail. It would also allow the advantages of rail transport over road transport to be more widely enjoyed, particularly in terms of energy efficiency.
3. What savings?
Quantifying the potential energy savings from the measures suggested above is tricky because the effectiveness of these measures depends on the conditions under which they are implemented. However, work to evaluate these gains has been undertaken in the framework of the European integrated project « Railenergy ". It shows that the two most effective measures are respectively the optimization of traffic management (potential gains of 10 to 20%) and, for thermal traction, hybridization (10 to 35% under certain conditions). According to this project, the other measures would bring variable gains, from 2 to 5 or 6% depending on the measures and the conditions.
II. Mobility Services and Travel Practices
1. Movement of people
Regardless of progress in the energy efficiency of different modes of transport, public and soft modes will remain more efficient than individual road transport. The modal shift to energy-efficient modes and intermodality (combined use of different modes) are therefore natural objectives of energy-efficient travel policies. Achieving these objectives implies improving the quality of service (space-time availability, travel time, safety for soft modes, information and intermodal billing), under realistic economic conditions and in the many different territorial configurations concerned. Innovation is particularly necessary in suburban areas and medium-sized cities, which are the most difficult to serve by conventional public transport and often the least suitable for soft modes, because they are currently designed for the automobile.
A real dynamic is at work today in this field (transport on demand, carpooling, self-service vehicles), involving a wide range of players: public transport operators, car manufacturers, information producers, telecommunication operators, insurance companies, etc. This dynamic is strengthened by the prospects of electric mobility, which is quite clearly part of a service logic.
2. Freight transport
In terms of freight transport, the situation of modal split and intermodality is certainly of concern with respect to energy issues. Rail freight has fallen from 50 billion tons/km in 2002 to less than half today, and combined road-rail transport is obviously suffering from this decline in the rail mode (5% of rail traffic in 2011 compared to 35% in 2008). Only river transport has progressed, but its modal share will never be very significant, even with the completion of the Seine-North Canal (a project designed to link the French navigable network to that of northern Europe (a reconfiguration mission was launched in April 2013 to examine the conditions that would make it possible to overcome the financial impasse currently observed). The predominant role of maritime transport (90% of the world’s goods are transported by sea), particularly since the rise of containerization, gives a key place to the ports and the quality of their rail and waterway connections: Le Havre, the leading port in France, handles 60% of French container traffic, i.e. 2.4 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units), compared with 11.1 million TEUs in Rotterdam, the leading European port and 10th in the world, far behind the 29 million TEUs in Shanghai (these figures give a small idea of the current geography of goods transport).
The example of other European countries shows, however, that this situation of growing domination of road transport, contrary to the expectations and political will expressed over the last twenty years, is not inevitable: the modal share of rail freight (2010 figures) is 15% in France and declining (as in Spain and Italy), but it is growing both in countries where it is lower (Netherlands 5%, United Kingdom 13%) and in those where it is higher (Germany 21%, Austria 36%, Switzerland 39%), and geographic conditions do not explain everything, with French deindustrialization playing an undeniable role. Research must therefore continue to prepare the conditions for a more favorable modal split, i.e., greater efficiency of the rail mode, automation of transshipment yards, and tools for port multimodality. It must assess the economic feasibility of the investments involved, such as dedicated freight lanes. Following the Grenelle Environment Forum, a national commitment for rail freight (March 2012) set out the objective of increasing the share of non-road modes in freight transport from 14% to 25% by 2022, announcing an investment plan, shared equally between RFF and the State, of 16 million euros per year until 2020.
In urban areas, the question of modal split is less significant, even if some experiments in rail service or the use of public passenger transport may be interesting to follow. The challenge of urban logistics is rather that of organizing load breaks between medium- and long-distance transport and vehicles adapted to an urban environment that is increasingly restrictive for local environmental reasons (air pollution, noise, congestion). One of the ways to progress in the face of these increasingly unavoidable load breaks could be the mutualization of storage spaces and vehicles, made realistic today by the maturity of communication technologies.
III. Mobility and spatial planning
The subject of « transport and urban planning » is not new. In order to remain contemporary, we can at least recall the period of the construction of the new cities, which gave rise to marked planning strategies in this field. Since the beginning of the 1980s, the issue of urban sprawl has continued to gain importance in research and reflection and even in the production of legislation, and the revival of energy issues has further accentuated the importance of this issue. But there is a long way to go from concern to action (according to a 2013 survey among the staff of the CEA center in Cadarache, the average distance from home to work is 36 km…) and expectations for research to inform this action are all the stronger since the energy criterion must be confronted with the economics of planning and equity.
As mentioned above, the reflection should not be limited to large urban areas, since dependence on the automobile is often greater in small and medium-sized cities and the issue of distances traveled is also important.
IV. Productive system, planning and transport demand
The evolution of production systems in recent decades has largely contributed to the growth of transport demand: globalization of trade, just-in-time management (stocks in trucks), fractioning of chains and distance from production sites, increasing distances between production and consumption, fractioning of packages, transport costs that include few externalities, etc., have led to an explosion in container traffic and favored transport by road. The sensitivity of these practices to changes in energy constraints is an essential research question: are there possible changes, or even reversals, and under what economic conditions? What room for manoeuvre does public policy have with regard to a form of control over the demand for goods transport? How can the impact of electronic commerce be assessed in this respect?
V. The place of mobility in socio-economic values
Beyond what has been said in the previous two paragraphs about the potential evolution of travel practices, the place of mobility in the hierarchy of socio-economic values is a matter of debate. In the continuity of past decades, many policy makers consider that the development of mobility, while reducing its environmental impacts, should be favoured because it induces social and economic development. Efforts should therefore be focused on transport technologies rather than on the quantity and scope of travel. Others, who are in the minority today, believe that the place of mobility in lifestyles and consumption patterns must be questioned more fundamentally, that some of this mobility is not chosen but forced, and that the values of proximity have been forgotten to an excessive extent. A « weak sign » of this trend could be the propensity of young people to take their driving test later and to favour ICTs, which are obviously much less expensive in terms of equipment.
VI. France : the national transport infrastructure plan and the challenge of funding resources, the Mobility 21 report
The Mobility 21 Commission was set up in October 2012 by the Minister of Transport and Fisheries with the mission of specifying the conditions for implementing the National Transport Infrastructure Plan (SNIT) with regard to real investment capacities and proposing a hierarchy of projects.
The report was submitted to the Minister on June 27, 2013. It effectively states that resources do not allow the development of the transportation network to continue at the current rate, and a fortiori at the rate corresponding to the SNIT, and it proposes three groups of projects :
Projects to be undertaken before 2030 : service to port hubs (Marseille, Le Havre), treatment of black spots in rail hubs (Lyon, Marseille, Paris) + the Roissy-Picardy HSR
projects to be undertaken between 2030 and 2050: other rail hubs (Nice, Rouen), the Bordeaux-Toulouse high-speed line, upgrading of the Seine amont canal to a large gauge and various road projects (including French access to the Lyon-Turin)
projects to be undertaken beyond 2050.
The « Sober Transportation » sheet, produced as part of the National Energy Research Strategy, December 2012. Ademe, in collaboration with : Alliance Nationale de Coordination de la Recherche pour l’Energie (ANCRE), Programme de Recherche et d’Innovation dans les Transports Terrestres (PREDIT), Ministry of Higher Education and Research, Ministry of Economy, Finance and Industry, Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy
Assessment of Predit 4 (research and innovation program in land transport 2008-2013): research presentations
Freight forecast 2030 . Samarcande, report for Predit, July 2008
Rail freight, a mode of the future for Europe ". Eurogroup Consulting, SITL March 2012
To go further
Website of the Ademe