1. Rationale and setting

As far as congestion is concerned, sea ports are often shown to be worst hit on the land side. This observation is also true for Flanders. In this paper, we analyse the situation for the E313 motorway, which is approximately 120 kilometres long. It connects Antwerp to Liège and is a link to the Ruhr area in Germany, as can be seen in Figure 1. For most of its length, it has two lanes in each direction.

The Port of Antwerp, the second largest port in Europe for international freight shipping, is one of the main generators of heavy goods vehicle traffic for the E313 route. Data for recent years shows that around 40% of all goods flows of the Port of Antwerp are transported to/from the port by road.

The motorway features particular competition from both rail and inland waterways, especially in dealing with port-bound traffic. As to waterways, the Albert Canal, which runs mainly in parallel with the motorway, is currently being subject to capacity expansion through the extension and elevation of a number of bridges that cross the canal. From the rail side, the Iron Rhine is a potential competitor of the E313 motorway. It is the historic railway line, started up in 1879, that runs from Antwerp to the German Ruhr area. Since 1991, this track is no longer used for international transport. Nowadays, the so-called Montzen route is used, which makes a detour over Liège. The Belgian Government has stated its intention to resume and intensify the use of the Iron Rhine railway line. Restoration, alteration and modernisation (referred to as “reactivation”) of the Iron Rhine route will therefore be required. Both Iron Rhine and Albert canal are part of the TEN-T network. The Iron Rhine falls within rail axis nr.24 (Lyon/Genova-Basel-Duisburg-Rotterdam/Antwerpen), whereas the Albert Canal is part of axis nr.18 (Rhine/Meuse-Main-Danube).

Capacity optimization seems to impose itself, in view of the frequent occurrence of congestion and the many accidents featuring the motorway. The severity of the problem shows up also in a survey held among Flemish road transport companies (Gevaers, et al., 2009). On the other hand, a number of more general capacity optimization measures are being put in place by the European Commission but more importantly also by the Flemish government. The latter also deploys a mode shift strategy, with the aim of increasing the chances of both inland navigation and rail transport.

The study focuses on measuring the effectiveness of policy instruments and their combinations on E313 traffic. Various kinds of instruments are taken into account in the model scenarios. As a key instrument, the impact of road pricing is considered. Road pricing could either be deployed on motorways only or on all roads.

2. Research question and methodology

The situation described in Section 1 shows that capacity optimization is feasible, especially taking into account that mode choice alternatives to road transport are not yet fully exploited for the hinterland traffic of the Port of Antwerp. The main research question is therefore what combinations of measures provide sufficient results in alleviating congestion problems on port hinterland connections.

In order to outline possible future developments, first, a qualitative impact analysis was performed of port traffic evolutions, Albert canal expansion, short sea shipping evolutions, European policy developments, instruments developed within Flanders Logistics, Flanders Port Area and Flanders Inland Shipping Network, the possible re-introduction of the Iron Rhine, road infrastructure bottlenecks, and other important influencing factors on the E313. Those are described in detail in Section 3. Expanding road infrastructure over part or all of the motorway length was not considered to be a feasible solution at reasonable notice.

Based on the findings from the impact analysis, a link was made between the selected influencing factors and scenarios in the Freight Model Flanders. Several scenarios were built to construct a min-max range that describes assumptions on possible developments, which are dealing with the economy, policy, population and household consumption, imports and exports, and inland ports.

Modeling a reference scenario and 12 alternative scenarios for the year 2020 was done with the Freight Model Flanders. A three-level approach was adopted to interpret the simulation results. At the first level, total tonnages were calculated and figures were evaluated for every scenario. At the second level, route change investigation was done by interpreting a difference plot. At the third level, mode shift was investigated.

3. Setting in detail: factors affecting the E313 traffic

In this section, the setting of the study is further outlined by describing the influencing factors detected. This step is necessary in order to select and quantify variables for the modelling stage of the project described in Section 4 of this paper.

3.1 Port Traffic

The Port of Antwerp, the second largest port in Europe for international freight shipping, is one of the main sources of lorry traffic for the E313 route. Mode split data (in TEU) for recent years show that ~60% of the container turnover that is generated by the Port of Antwerp is transported to/from the port by road overall.

Based on the capacity and demand forecast by Ocean Shipping Consultants (2006), and the two possible scenarios of the port market increase (case1 - the market share of the Port of Antwerp increases according to the current trend, case2 - the market share of the Port of Antwerp stays at the current level), a forecast of container turnover for the Port of Antwerp can be done using linear extrapolation (see Figure 2). Estimates containing the longer-run effects of the economic crisis starting in 2008 were not available at the moment of writing this paper.

Making abstraction of the current economic crisis and assuming recovery after it1, container turnover in future years is expected to continue its growth. In the optimistic scenario, case1, it is expected to reach 15.5 million TEUs. In a pessimistic situation, case2, it will rise to 12.7 million TEUs in 2015.

For the year 2008, which marks the beginning of the current economic crisis, the forecast is accurate. In the first 6 months of 2009, an 18.5% reduction is observed. If the current trend remains, a return to turnover levels of 2006 is possible (shown in Figure 2). New adjusted case 1 and case 2 scenarios could be put in place then.

It is important to look at port container handling capacity, because it is a limiting factor in port development. There is also a risk of decreased service level in the port in case it is working near its full capacity. The information on container handling capacity as forecast by Ocean Shipping Consultants is also displayed in Figure 2. A forecast of the capacity development with the Saeftinghe dock in the Port of Antwerp from 2013 onwards is given.

  • Capacity forecast for Port of Antwerp by Ocean Shipping Consultants (2006)
  • Forecast of Saeftinghe dock capacity
  • Possible reduction of 18.5% in 2009

Based on an analysis for the period 2001-2007 of the historic data on port turnover for the Port of Antwerp, traffic count data obtained from the Flemish Traffic Centre on heavy goods vehicle traffic, and results from simulations with the Freight Model Flanders, there seems to be a relation between the traffic volumes of those vehicles on the E313 motorway and the port turnover, although not very pronounced. The forecast increase in port traffic (see Figure 2) may therefore have an effect on the heavy goods vehicle traffic on the E313 motorway.

3.2 Short Sea Shipping

Short Sea Shipping (SSS) holds an important share of the transport market within the European Union. According to European Commission (2009), it represents 40% of the intra-EU exchanges in terms of tonne-kilometres. The relevance of this transport mode in maintaining an efficient transport system in Europe today and in the future was emphasized by the European Commission (2001) in its White Paper on European Transport Policy 2010. SSS has maintained its position as the only mode of transport able to challenge the fast growth of road transport. Between 1995 and 2004, the tonne-kilometre performance of SSS in the EU-25 grew by 32 %, while road performance grew by 35 % (European Commission, 2006a).

The average annual tonnage growth rate of SSS over the period 2000-2006 for Belgium was 3.2% (on average 3% for the EU-15 countries). The SSS container turnover in Belgium for the same years has gone up on average by 19.3%, compared to the average of the EU-15 countries, which was at 8.0%. (Amerini, 2008)

Although SSS overall may reduce the share of road traffic, it induces local concentrations of traffic, from and to ports. This for sure also affects the E313 motorway, in both ways. Therefore, trends of increase in SSS should be taken into account, although the exact magnitude of both effects is not fully sure

3.3 The Albert Canal

The Albert canal is a direct competitor to the E313 motorway. A project to increase the capacity of the Albert Canal has just started and requires the replacement of a number of bridges. Modernization of the Albert Canal waterway for navigation of vessels of up to 9,000 t carrying capacity will allow barges to sail with containers stacked up to four high. The work that still has to be done includes the elimination of a bottleneck between Wijnegem and Antwerp, where the Canal is barely navigable for vessels of class Va, whereas the rest of the Canal is suited for class VIb vessels and push convoys. Moreover, on this section, the bridges have the lowest clearance, some less than 7 m, which is the standard for three-layer container navigation only. Eliminating these barriers will open up the Albert Canal for bigger and wider vessels and will allow full use of the Canal on its total length. The project includes the widening of the Canal up to a minimum width of 63 m. (United Nations Economic and Social Council, 2006; European Commission, 2008a; nv De Scheepvaart, 2008)

3.4 Iron Rhine

Just like the Albert Canal, the Iron Rhine is also a potential competitor to the E313 motorway. It is the historic railway line, built in 1879, that runs from Antwerp to Duisburg. Since 1991 this track has not been used anymore for international trains. From Antwerp the track runs through, among others, Lier, Budel, Weert and Roermond and ends in Mönchengladbach. The complete track has a length of 162 km of which 96 km is located in Belgium, 48 km in the Netherlands and 18 km in Germany.

Currently, Antwerp port-related traffic uses the Montzen route, south of the Iron Rhine, from Antwerp to Aachen via Aarschot, Hasselt, Tongeren and Montzen, for transportation of goods to Germany. High passenger traffic on parts of this route causes a lack of capacity for goods. Moreover, a number of steep slopes over the route make it problematic for long and heavy trains to pass. In 2004, Belgium requested a reopening of the Iron Rhine.

In 2006 it was concluded that by the year 2020, in a situation where the Iron Rhine is reactivated, the line is expected to attract between 9.4 and 12.3 million tonnes on the section crossing the Dutch-Belgian border. Most of the traffic, approximately 80%, is estimated to be diverted away from the Montzen route. Freight transport from other competing rail lines would also be attracted, e.g. from the route from Belgium via Luxemburg to Germany and the Brabant route. A slight mode shift of 0.3 to 0.4 million tonnes towards rail will also occur, mainly diverted away from inland shipping. By the year 2030, the volume of freight transported over the Iron Rhine will have increased to between 10.8 and 17.2 million tonnes. Recent analyses also show that economic viability at short notice of this project, under current market and operating conditions, is not evident. (NEA Transport research and training and Universiteit Antwerpen, 2007; Transport & Mobility Leuven, 2007)

3.5 European Developments

Europe is currently in a situation where the pressure from increasing goods flows rises. The road network is congested during peak hours and on crucial stretches, the rail sector is struggling to increase freight transport capacity, and the existing land based infrastructure cannot readily cope with the increase in traffic volume at the pace at which it is now growing, mainly due to bottlenecks. Additionally, in Flanders, a supplementary problem occurs with inland navigation, which is hampered in some locations by too shallow waters. As European freight volumes might increase with as much as 50% by the year 2020 (Institute of Shipping Analysis, Göteborg et al., 2006), the situation will continue to worsen unless action is taken.

The EU legislation and developments that may have the biggest influence on the further development of the E313 motorway are the following:

1. Taxation of heavy goods vehicles: “Eurovignette” Directive

Directive 1999/62/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 1999

Amending acts: directive 2006/38/EC and directive 2006/103/EC.

The Directive covers vehicle taxes, tolls and user charges imposed on vehicles intended for the carriage of goods by road and having a maximum permissible gross laden weight of not less than 12 tonnes. From 2012 onwards, Directive 2006/38/EC will apply to vehicles weighing between 3.5 and 12 tonnes.

Proposal for a Directive on road tolls for lorries (amending 1999/62/EC)

This proposal would enable Member States to reduce environmental damage and congestion through more efficient and greener road tolls for lorries. Revenue from the tolls would be used to reduce environmental impacts and cut congestion. This proposal is part of Greening Transport Package (adopted 8 July 2008). (European Commission, 2008b)

2. TEN-T plans

The TEN-T network axis with most impact to the E313 motorway are rail axis nr. 24 Lyon/Genova - Basel - Duisburg - Rotterdam/Antwerpen, which includes the Iron Rhine Rheidt-Antwerp railway and inland waterway axis nr.18 Rhine/Meuse-Main-Danube with sub-section Albert canal. Other TEN-T network links have little or no impact on the E313 motorway.

3. Road safety: Road Safety Action Programme (2003-2010)

Main measures: to propose a Directive on road infrastructure safety, draw up technical guidelines concerning audit methods, urban safety management and speed-moderation techniques, draw up good practice guidelines for level-crossings, carry out research and demonstration projects on 'intelligent roads', carry out safety impact assessments of new projects, improve safety levels in tunnels, etc. (European Commission, 2003)

4. Road vehicles: maximum weights and dimensions

Council Directive 96/53/EC of 25 July 1996 laying down for certain vehicles circulating within the Community the maximum authorised dimensions in national and international traffic and the maximum authorised weights in international traffic. Amending act: Directive 2002/7/EC

4. Freight model, Scenarios and assumptions

In Section 3 some elements have been selected which have effect on the use of the E313 motorway. Some of these elements have been put in a freight model, in order to quantify the effects.

4.1 Freight Model Flanders

Commissioned by the Flemish Traffic Centre, a new freight model for Flanders has been developed by K+P Transport Consultants, Tritel and Mint.

Based on the freight model, it is possible to simulate future freight flows, split up by mode (road, rail and inland waterways) and NST freight category. A classical 4-step model has been used:

- Generation of flows: determines the flows leaving from (or arriving in) zone i (j) in a period. For freight transport, this means that for freight category k it is calculated how many tons are leaving from (arriving in) zone i (j);

- Distribution of flows: the generation of flows serves as input for this stage. The freight flows are determined between zones i and j;

- Mode choice: analyses which mode is used to move tons from zone i to j;

- Assignment: comprises route choice, after translating the tonnages into number of vehicles in a traffic conversion section.

Transport Logistic Nodes (TLN) are also included in the model. A TLN zone is a transfer point where loads change the means of transport, which is not necessarily the mode, simultaneously with a re-consolidation of the shipment. The Freight Model Flanders takes into account the so-called decided infrastructure changes of the Flemish government.

4.2 Scenarios

A number of purpose-made scenarios have been constructed (see Table 1). The scenarios are based on possible developments in the economy, as well as on possible policy that could be introduced by the government. Each scenario is a combination of several assumptions: economic, policy-related, linked to population and household consumption, dealing with import and export, and with inland navigation and ports. Underlying assumptions are explained in the next section.
Table 1: Scenarios

Economic assumptions; assumptions import and export

Policy assumptions

Assumptions inland navigation

Port assumptions

Scenario 1

Low growth

Continuation of current policy

Continuation of current policy

Following economic assumptions

Scenario 2

Low growth

Continuation of current policy

Extra measure inland navigation

Following economic assumptions

Reference scenario

Normal growth

Continuation of current policy

Continuation of current policy

Following economic assumptions

Scenario 3

Normal growth

Continuation of current policy

Extra measure inland navigation

Following economic assumptions

Scenario 4

Normal growth

Moderate transport policy

Continuation of current policy

Following economic assumptions

Scenario 5

Normal growth

Moderate transport policy

Extra measure inland navigation

Following economic assumptions

Scenario 6

High growth

Moderate transport policy

Continuation of current policy

Following economic assumptions

Scenario 7

High growth

Moderate transport policy

Extra measure inland navigation

Following economic assumptions

Scenario 8

Normal growth

Internalizing external costs of all modes

Continuation of current policy

Following economic assumptions

Scenario 9

Normal growth

Continuation of current policy

Continuation of current policy

0.5 x results economic assumptions

Scenario 10

Normal growth

Continuation of current policy

Continuation of current policy

1.5 x results economic assumptions

Scenario 11

Normal growth

Internalizing external costs of all modes

Continuation of current policy

0.5 x results economic assumptions

Scenario 12

Normal growth

Internalizing external costs of all modes

Continuation of current policy

1.5 x results economic assumptions

Source: own composition

4.3 Scenario Assumptions

4.3.1 Economic, import and export assumptions

In European Energy and Transport Trends to 2030 - update 2005 (European Commission, 2006b), a yearly economic growth of 2% until 2020 in Belgium is reported. This economic growth represents the yearly evolution of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in real terms, adjusted for inflation. This leads to 3 economic assumptions in this research project:

- Economic assumption 1: low growth (growth GDP - 0.5% = 1.5%)

- Economic assumption 2: normal growth (growth GDP = 2%)

- Economic assumption 3: high growth (growth GDP + 0.5% = 2.5%)

For foreign zones, the evolution of GDP is used as a proxy for the magnitude of freight flows between Flanders and those zones. We also refer to the forecasting report of the European Commission (2006b).

The growth of the import and export flows in value also serves as an explaining variable in the freight model. Both import and export flows follow the economic assumptions described above. Based on Federaal Planbureau (2008), it is assumed that the import and export flows will grow by 4.3% yearly when we have a normal growth in the economic assumptions, 3.8% if economic assumptions indicate a low growth, and 4.8% in case of high growth.

4.3.2 Policy assumptions

A distinction is made between a continuation of the current policy, a moderate transport policy, and a policy where the external costs of all transport modes are internalized.

Continuation of the current policy

In the assumption of continuation of the current policy, a growth of 0.1% per year of the costs of road and rail transport is assumed to exist. A growth of the costs of road transport is considered as probable given the far advanced deregulation of the road freight transport sector, where the largest cost advantages from deregulation have already been gained. For rail freight transport, the persistent dominance of national railway companies is assumed. A deregulation leads to a reduction of national subsidies and will cause an upward pressure on the prices (NEA Transport research and training and Universiteit Antwerpen, 2007). These growth percentages should be seen as relative percentages. In other words, road transport and rail transport will have a slightly bigger cost increase compared with inland navigation. In this analysis, it is not necessary to look up the actual growth percentages. Growth percentages respecting the relative position between the modes, which are much easier to obtain, are sufficient.

Moderate transport policy

The moderate transport policy differs from the continuation of the current policy in the assumptions made for the evolution of the costs for road and rail2.

It is assumed that road pricing is introduced on the highways in the Benelux. The amount is set to be €0.15 per kilometre and it will replace the traffic tax and the Euro-vignette. On the non-highways, this value is set to be €0 per kilometre3,4. For rail, it is assumed that a higher user fee will be introduced: in total €3.30 per train-km).

Internalizing external costs of all modes (road, rail and inland waterways)

Internalizing external costs of all modes starts with the assumptions from the scenarios on continuation of current policy and of moderate transport policy. It is now assumed that the internalization of external costs will apply to all modes of ground transport.

According to NEA Transport research and training and Universiteit Antwerpen (2007), the following values were used in the model and applied to all types of infrastructure:

- Road: €0.075 per tonkm

- Rail: €0.005 per tonkm

- Inland waterways: €0.005 per tonkm

4.3.3 Specific assumptions for inland navigation

In order to simulate cost advantages for inland waterway transport, specific assumptions have been introduced.

- Continuation of current policy;

- Extra measure for inland navigation: a yearly cost reduction of 2% of the cost of inland navigation, e.g. as a result of more efficient use of inland waterways.

4.3.4 Port assumptions

In scenarios 9-12 (see Table 1), explicit assumptions about the port of Antwerp are taken into account. Scenarios 1-8 and the reference scenario comprise a basic growth path for the port of Antwerp which is based on the different economic assumptions.

Additionally, in scenarios 9-12 some specific growth patterns are considered to simulate a weakening or strengthening of the competitive position of the port of Antwerp:

- In case of a stronger competitive position it is assumed that the incoming and outgoing flows in tonnage for the port of Antwerp are 1.5 the initially estimated values;

- In case of a weaker competitive position, it is assumed that the incoming and outgoing flows in tonnage for the port of Antwerp are half the initially estimated values.

Scenarios 9-12 therefore allow for changes in port competition within the freight model.

5. Simulation results

A three-level approach has been adopted to interpret the simulations results. The full simulation results themselves are available in the report by Aronietis et al. (2009)

Three types of output were produced:

  1. Calculation of total tonnages and growth figures for every scenario. For some specific points on the E313 motorway the tonnages (and hence vehicles) passing by are analyzed.
  2. Evaluation of route changes based on difference plots.
  3. Mode shift analysis.

Map source: Microsoft MapPoint 2009

In all simulation results, the base year is 2004, while tonnages in the scenarios refer to 2020. Results of the first type of output refer to specific locations on the E313, as illustrated in Figure 3. In particular, locations 1 and 2 are close to Antwerp and are selected to illustrate the direct effect of the port of Antwerp. Locations 3 and 4 are selected in order to give a view on the tonnages after the split between the E313 and E34. Finally, locations 5 and 6 are important because they are located in the vicinity of the intersection Lummen (E313 and E314).

As the second type of output route change investigation is done using a difference plot, an illustration tool of the Cube software. The purpose of this application is to illustrate the different scenarios in both colour and thickness. Hence, the scenarios for which this analysis was deemed necessary are benchmarked with the reference scenario, showing whether an increase or decrease in tonnages took place.

In particular, what is shown by the different colours could be summarized as follows:

  • Red lines show an increase of more than one hundred tons;
  • Green lines show a decrease of more than one hundred tons;
  • Grey lines show minor differences, indicating that the scenarios have an insignificant effect on the tonnages transported on the specific network link;

On the other hand the thickness of the lines represents the volume of tonnages for each link.

An example of a difference plot output is presented in Figure 4.

As the third type of output, a mode shift analysis was done. Four regions were selected to analyze the mode shift effects of the scenarios: the port of Antwerp, county of Antwerp (excl. Port of Antwerp), the Turnhout region and the Hasselt region. The E313 passes through all the aforementioned regions.

For each region, the total incoming and outgoing flows in tonnage have been calculated for road, rail and inland waterways. This enabled the calculation of the mode split for the base year 2004, the reference scenario and the specific scenarios for the year 2020.

Based on the three-level approach that has been adopted to interpret the simulation results, a list of observations was made.

On a general level we found that:

  • The results of the simulations show that combinations of measures with similar consequences have a bigger effect. Therefore, for practical implementation, a combination of measures is more advisable.
  • A specific scenario may have different, even adverse effects on the traffic volumes in different points and directions of the road network.

With regard to evolutions of port traffic the major conclusion is that :

Scenarios with port growth variations clearly show the impacts of port turnover dynamics on the traffic on the locations at the E313 motorway. The increased/decreased port throughput has an influence both on incoming and outgoing flows, but the level of effect is different. The incoming flows are influenced less than the outgoing flows. For example, in matrix 8 (in the direction of Antwerp), the assumptions of scenarios 4 to 7 influence the goods flow less than in matrix 7 (same location, but in the direction away from Antwerp).

For inland navigation the following findings can be highlighted:

  • In general, scenarios introducing the extra measure for inland navigation lead to an increase of the share of inland waterways with maximum 4% in the port of Antwerp. When internalizing the external costs of all modes, the increase is higher, up to 8%.
  • The shift of road transport mainly moves towards inland navigation. For instance, concerning incoming flows to the port of Antwerp, the mode share for inland waterways goes from 40% to 48%.

Pricing policies have the following consequences

  • The introduction of a moderate transport policy leads to a decrease of the traffic on the E313, but leads to an increase at the lower network. In practice, it means that route diversion occurs when a moderate policy in terms of kilometre cost charging on the highways is being enforced.
  • In the case of charging the entire network with a kilometre cost variable equal to €0.15 together, the results differ substantially, showing that the decrease in tonnage becomes more widespread in the network.
  • The introduction of the internalization of external costs policy for all modes creates the same network pattern but with the effects being more pronounced than the scenarios of moderate policy.
  • The introduction of the internalization of external costs leads to a significant change in the mode split between road, rail and inland navigation.

Changes in economic and transport growth have the following major impacts:

  • The result of low-growth assumptions on the goods flows on the E313 motorway is that, as expected, the volumes of the goods flows and also the annual growth decreases in all the locations on the motorway.
  • The model captures the increase (decrease) in economic growth and international trade and links it to the higher (lower) growth of goods flows on the E313motorway.

6. Conclusions

The case of the E313 motorway in Flanders illustrates that capacity optimisation can be a feasible option, taking into account the available alternatives to road transport that are not yet fully exploited for the hinterland traffic of the Port of Antwerp.

There is a set of factors including port traffic volumes, trends in the economy, available transport alternatives and legislation that influence goods flows by road in port hinterland connections. The Freight Model Flanders allows to capture those factors and link them to goods flows on the road network.

Results show that the introduction of different policy measures leads to significant effects in mode and route choice in port hinterland connections. For practical implementation, a combination of those measures is more advisable.

The methodology and main results of this study are generalisable so that they are applicable not only to the Flemish context, but under similar circumstances also to other port hinterland contexts, featuring strong road use and availability of rail and/or inland waterway alternatives. In that sense, the scenario runs and their results are of high relevance to policymakers in charge of alleviating port hinterland congestion problems.

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