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3.3 The 'Green corridor' Concept

'Green corridors' are not defined any more precisely than transportation corridors are, in fact one of the most important contributions of ongoing research on the topic would be to develop an explicit and workable definition of the term.

The concept was introduced in 2007 by the Freight Transport Logistics Action Plan of the European Commission (EC, 2007). According to this document:

.. . [green] transport corridors are marked by a concentration of freight traffic between major hubs and by relatively long distances ...

... Industry will be encouraged along these corridors to rely on co-modality[1] and on

advanced technology in order to accommodate rising traffic volumes, while promoting environmental sustainability and energy efficiency .. .

... Green transport corridors will ... be equipped with adequate transhipment facilities at strategic locations .. . and with supply points initially for bio-fuels and, later, for other forms of green propulsion .. .

... Green corridors could be used to experiment with environmentally-friendly, innovative transport units, and with advanced Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) applications

.. .

... Fair and non-discriminatory access to corridors and transhipment facilities should be ensured in accordance with the rules of the Treaty.

Some years later, the Swedish Logistics Forum worked out a more structured definition (Faste´n & Clemedtson, 2012). According to them:

Green Corridors aim at reducing environmental and climate impact while increasing safety and efficiency. Characteristics of a green corridor include:

• sustainable logistics solutions with documented reductions of environmental and climate impact, high safety, high quality and strong efficiency,

• integrated logistics concepts with optimal utilization of all transport modes, so called

co-modality,

• harmonized regulations with openness for all actors,

• a concentration of national and international freight traffic on relatively long transport routes,

• efficient and strategically placed transhipment points, as well as an adapted, supportive infrastructure, and

• a platform for development and demonstration of innovative logistics solutions, includ-

ing information systems, collaborative models and technology.

A direct comparison between the two definitions reveals the following differences:

• The Swedish definition includes 'high safety' in the list of characteristics, referring to social acceptance, the third pillar of sustainability as it appears in the strategic document Europe 2020 (EC, 2010). On the contrary, the EU definition confines itself to the other two dimensions of sustainability; those of economic and environmental efficiency.

• The Swedish definition makes reference also to harmonized regulations as a necessary feature of a green corridor.

• Although both definitions mention technology as a green corridor element, only the EU one makes direct reference to alternative fuels and green propulsion.

Fig. 3.2 Green corridors as a subset of efficient corridors. Source: Panagakos and Psaraftis (2014)


Despite their differences, the two definitions share an important aspect of green corridors: these corridors are more than just economically efficient and they are more than just environmentally sustainable; they are both economically efficient and environmentally sustainable. It is for this reason that green corridors enjoy a central position in green freight logistics and also a central role in this book's search for win-win solutions.

If, for simplicity purposes, we consider safety as a pre-condition constraining economic efficiency, then green corridors comprise a subset of the efficient ones. Figure 3.2 depicts this notion schematically.

What are, then, the specific characteristics that distinguish a green corridor from an otherwise efficient one? To answer this question, one has to merge the two lists of characteristics presented above into a single one and exclude the features that pertain to any efficient corridor. The following green characteristics result from this exercise:

(a) Reliance on co-modality, i.e. the efficient use of different modes on their own and in combination, which in turn requires:

– adequate transhipment facilities at strategic locations; and

– integrated logistics concepts.

(b) Reliance on advanced technology allowing use of alternative clean fuels (in addition to energy efficiency that can be viewed as a characteristic of an efficient corridor anyway).

(c) Development and demonstration capabilities of environmentally-friendly and

innovative transportation solutions, including advanced telematics applications.

(d) Collaborative business models.

The last question to address in this section relates to the expected benefits of this new concept. What is it that makes the green corridors so special?

The basic principle relates to the consolidation of large volumes of freight for transportation over long distances, in between the so-called first and last miles. This is a prerequisite for improving the competitiveness of modes like rail and waterborne transportation, which are environmentally friendlier than trucks, on the one hand, and exhibit spare capacity, on the other. Increased competitiveness leads to higher possibilities of engaging trains and ships in freight logistics. In turn, the shift of cargoes away from European roads is expected to alleviate the serious congestion problem that this transportation mode faces, producing positive externalities to the other users of the road network through improvements in reliability and reduction of transportation time.

Furthermore, the scale and length of such freight corridors enable further optimization in terms of energy use and emissions for these long-hauls, resulting in additional environmental and financial (due to lower operating costs) gains. The feasibility of investments associated with establishing a network of refuelling stations for alternative fuels (biofuels, electricity, LNG, etc.) along such corridors would be improved, while the use of more energy efficient vehicles/vessels (trucks with better aerodynamic performance and new engines, longer trains, LNG-fuelled vessels, etc.) would be boosted.

Advanced ICT applications like automatic guidance systems would further improve the utilization and performance of existing infrastructure through minimizing congestion and accidents. ICT would also help integrating regular rail, sea and inland waterway services with road transportation which will maintain the predominant role over short and medium distances. Applications would include cargo tracking and tracing, schedule optimization and simplification of formalities related to multimodal freight transportation.

In addition, the international character of the corridors (involve at least three Member States) addresses the fragmented nature of transportation networks, especially rail, dealing with the haunting interoperability issues in geographical terms. At the same time, focusing on a subset of the network improves the chances of identifying workable solutions by limiting the overwhelming scale of the problem.

The realization of international multimodal corridors cannot be implemented without appropriate corridor structures. These structures will bring together the Commission, Member States, the regions, the local authorities, but also the infrastructure owners and managers, transportation operators, shippers, financiers and, when appropriate, neighbouring countries. The involvement of such structures is absolutely necessary in promoting multimodal logistics, where lack of coordination comprises probably the most persisting problem.

The systematic exchange of information between national authorities would further enable the uniform enforcement of common safety, security, environmental and social legislation which, in turn, would benefit the users of transportation services and their providers through full market opening and the provision of a level playing field.

Last but not least, the establishment of corridors that enhance the efficiency of transportation modes (alone and in combination) through better utilization of resources is expected to limit the considerable investments needed for expanding the capacity of the transportation networks in an environment of budgetary consolidation and increasing public opposition to major transportation infrastructure projects especially in the vicinity of urban areas.

  • [1] 1 In the EU transport policy documents, the term co-modality is used to refer to the “use of different transport modes on their own and in combination” in the aim of obtaining “an optimal and sustainable utilization of resources”
 
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