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Express freighters flock to rail

FedEx Express.

Express freighters are increasingly choosing rail over air transport.

The long-buried potential of rail is at last to be realised with the help of the global express delivery industry, a market analyst has argued.

Datamonitor’s transport logistics analyst Sraavani Rao said large swings in oil prices, coupled with the economic downturn, were leading to a gradual shift in customer demand away from express and parcel delivery services via air to rail and road.

She argued key international players such as DHL, TNT, UPS and FedEx were seeing the rail network as a competitive alternative with service capabilities as well as economic and environmental benefits.

Express operators, especially in the European market, are increasing the use of the rail sector, already offering services through rail to serve same-day and next-day delivery requirements.

US player FedEx is also planning to team up with the French rail network in a bid to provide time-definite rail deliveries and help cut reliance on air networks for domestic and international deliveries within the EU.

This is also expected to streamline critical overnight express deliveries, as rising noise concerns at the airports continue to put more pressure on operators, according to Ms Rao.

She pointed out rail seemed to be a more viable option than road as congestion charges in some capital cities would make road transport on certain occasions costlier than rail.

“Additionally, rail transport makes environmental sense, as the emission levels are significantly lower than those of road,” she said.

She said the shift favouring rail transport over road and air would become more salient in the medium to long term.

“An alternative mode of transport that offers great potential is rail, as most companies come to realise the potential of rail express delivery.

“This is expected to increase the share of rail in the modal mix of transport in the years to come and also provide opportunities for express companies to both compete effectively and satisfy shippers’ requirements,” Ms Rao said.

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