Level Playing Field for Freight Transport in Belgium

As part of the effort to promote modal shift, Belgium’s Federal government provides a subsidy to combined (since 2005) and single wagon load (since 2013) transport by rail, as many European countries do.
(see http://mobilit.belgium.be/nl/mobiliteit/goederenvervoer/subsidies)
For combined transport, the subsidy consists of a fixed component (per Intermodal Transport Unit ITU) and a distance-based component (per ITU km) and applies only to journeys where the entire rail component of the trajectory is on Belgian territory; for single wagon load transport, the subsidy is distance based only (per wagonkm) and applies to the distances travelled on Belgian territory, including those as part of an international journey.

The subsidy is intended to allow rail transport to compete based on price with pure road transport (which also has the advantage of flexibility). In practice, combined transport subsidies are provided only for containers to/from the port of Antwerp. For single wagon load, Antwerp is the main hub for shunting/marshalling operations as well.

In April 2016, a kilometre charge was introduced for heavy duty road freight transport, which can shift the balance in the transport market. As the current rail support mechanism is set to expire end of 2016, a revision/renewal of the measure was possible in light of this new road freight taxation system. This study reviewed if it was necessary to do so, and if yes, to what extent it helps achieve a level playing field for freight transport in Belgium.

The following tasks were performed:
  • A description of the current market for freight transport in Belgium in terms of transport volumes and costs
  • An estimation of the price sensitivity of freight transport markets
  • Impact assessments of the rail subsidy (past) and kilometre charge (projected)
  • A benchmark of all these results, with 7 other European countries
  • A projection of the expected effects of a continuation of the support mechanism for rail transport on freight markets and the level playing field for freight transport in Belgium




Federale Overheidsdienst Mobiliteit en Vervoer

Our team

Tim Breemersch, Eef Delhaye, Bruno Van Zeebroeck
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