The open letter addressed to Italian and European institutions outlines why intermodal freight via rail is well placed to move goods while limiting the risk of spreading Covid-19.

“Intermodal rail transport uses the rail mode for long distances and road for final distribution,” the letter says. “It is a closed, easily controllable, traceable and adjustable system, based on a reduced number of terminals. Since the beginning of the coronavirus emergency, the various actors in the logistics chain have adopted a series of measures to protect the health and safety of the people involved in the production processes, implementing and often anticipating the indications of the authorities.

“Today, leading companies in the logistics sector are shifting a significant amount of goods to rail in order to reduce the mobility of people such as drivers across Europe, especially in the north-south corridor for traffic to and from Italy.”

The letter says that a train crewed by two people is able to move 40 semi-trailers, while freight terminals managed by 60 staff are able to move goods by train that would otherwise require 800 truck drivers.

The letter outlines specific aids and measures it says are needed to support the industry, including:

  • clear and transparent communication at an institutional level, avoiding counterproductive alarmism, with strong reference to the strategic role of intermodal transport
  • special attention for transhipment terminals as an “essential link” in the operation of intermodal transport
  • the safeguarding of intermodal transport through interventions and processes coordinated with civil protection and the regions involved, with these actions coordinated at a central level in order to ensure uniform procedures
  • any blocking of rail transport would be counterproductive from the point of view of public health and should therefore be avoided at all costs
  • services will be managed according to safety procedures aimed at avoiding the risks of contagion through the containment of the number of contacts between people
  • digitalisation and administrative simplification, including the speeding up of the authorisation processes of railway customs corridors
  • providing for actions to support companies operating in the transport chain, by introducing  procedures with well-tested administrative systems
  • providing for actions to support the cost of labour in companies that face reduced activity due to a significant drop in volumes
  • deferral of expected payments due to a lack of liquidity
  • a one-month deferral for all administrative formalities to public administrations, and
  • hyper-amortisation: facilitate investments and interconnected capital goods covered by the industry plan 4.0 with the aid foreseen in the hyper-amortisation plan.

“We remind you that the coronavirus phenomenon is currently particularly critical in Italy, but is expanding throughout Europe,” the organisations say. “To protect the Italian and European economy, it is essential to act in a fast, lean, pragmatic way. Every threat brings opportunities and it is therefore time to push with determination towards a sustainable, safe and resilient transport mode such as intermodal transport.”

The letter was signed by the National Association of Automotive Transport Companies (Anita); Railway and Intermodal Operators Association (Assoferr); Assologistica; Fercargo; Fercargo Manovra; Fercargo Rotabili; Fercargo Terminal; SOS Logistics - Association for Sustainable Logistics; Association of Freight Villages (UIR); European Shippers’ Council (ESC); European Rail Freight Association (ERFA), Brussels; European Railways Network (NEE); and the International Union for Road-Rail Combined Transport (UIRR).