The idea of a freight rail service between Sagunto and the port of Valencia to exclusively transport the containers that currently arrive in trucks from the north to the maritime terminals “does not seem realistic”, according to the conclusions of a study on the operational feasibility and exploitation of those trains. The report has been prepared by a team led by the railway specialist Ricardo Insa, engineer of Roads, Channels and Ports and professor at the Department of Transport of the Polytechnic University of Valencia, commissioned by the association of managers and logistics entrepreneurs Propeller Valencia.
As Insa himself explained, for the implementation of this service a significant effort would be necessary in all links of the logistics chain, which “due to experience” in the implementation of recent infrastructures such as the third thread of the Mediterranean Corridor does not seem feasible to get them underway this decade.
According to the report, with the infrastructures and current operations, which it considers saturated in part of that route, only three daily trains could operate at most, which would barely account for 18% of demand. The report, which does not assess the economic investment that the necessary changes would entail, also includes issues such as that it would be necessary for the terminals and convoys to operate 24 hours to be feasible.
In the case of costs, consider that for each twenty-foot container (TEU) the average cost of the truck is 13% cheaper than that of the train, which would stand at 307.54 euros. The report does consider that this cost could equalize in 2030, but due to the increase in rates and costs linked to factors such as environmental or fiscal factors, which could also change in the case of the cost of the truck if it introduces electrification technologies.
However, from the sector they also warn of other costs, such as the fact that to take the containers to the railway terminal and upload them to the trains, another process would be added, since the trucks would have to continue transporting them there from the point of origin .
In addition, Pedro Coca, president of Propeller Valencia, also pointed out other opportunity costs. Thus, for this shuttle line, 6 of the 13 routes planned in the port terminals should be allocated, when currently these already carry significant traffic, especially from the Corridor with Madrid, but also from Zaragoza and Bilbao. In terms of profitability, the cost is low for trains that travel more kilometers, which makes this type of short journey less developed by operators.
According to Pedro Coca, “in view of the results of the report we are very skeptical regarding the operational and exploitation viability of the shuttle train. Everything is feasible, obviously, but empirically it is shown that in this specific case its viability is very complicated.”
The president of Propeller has wanted to clarify after this statement that “this does not mean that we do not need a new rail access to the Port of Valencia. The construction of the through tunnel would free Serrería and allow to enable this new connection”. “We are committed to the development of rail transport, of course, and we support economic growth based on sustainability.”
The eternal North Access
Regarding the North Access by road to the Port, Coca has recalled that at the moment it is waiting to know Ineco’s study of alternatives. However, he has ensured that “it will not be possible to avoid a connection by road and tunnel to the Valencian port area”.
In the first place, because the forecast indicates that a traffic of up to 10 million TEUs could be reached (which would hardly support a rail access); because currently there is only one access to the port from the south (and clearly another connection is needed) and because the maximum slope that a freight train can face (at the exit of the tunnel) cannot exceed 18 thousandths “.