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3.6 Corridor Benchmarking

3.6.1 Early Works

Unlike KPIs, corridor benchmarking is not a very popular topic in the literature. Most benchmarking work stops at the transport chain level. The few exceptions found in the bibliography are presented below.

The World Bank's Best Practices in Management of International Trade Cor-

ridors contains a first attempt in assessing the performance of a corridor (Arnold, 2006). On the basis that a corridor is generally composed of several alternative routes, the method focuses on measuring the performance of each route. Refer to Fig. 3.12 for a schematic depiction of the methodology.

In the event that no information on market segments, commodity groups, shipment types and modal split is available (which is normally the case), the analysis starts with the construction of a sample. The paper does not specify the sample's configuration. However, the need to compute cost, time and reliability indicators for the sample, which comprises the next step of the methodology, makes

Fig. 3.12 Evaluation of corridor performance. Source: Arnold (2006)

Fig. 3.13 Transport cost for a 3-leg chain. Source: Arnold (2006)

one infer that the sample is composed of transport chains.[1] After considering trends, the comparison with benchmarks leads to the identification of problems on a route basis. No details are given on how the chain-level indicators are transformed into route-level ones; a reference to supply chain analysis might be relevant. As a next step, route problems are translated into performance deficiencies at the links and nodes. No attempt is made to compute indicators at the corridor level. The absence of environmental considerations from the analysis is also noticeable.

An interesting contribution of this World Bank publication relates to the way cost and time figures of links and nodes are combined to form chainand corridorlevel indicators.

The cost of a transport chain consists of all out-of-pocket costs plus either the insurance costs or any loss or damage to cargo while en route. The costs incurred in a transport link can be described as a combination of a fixed cost and a variable cost that depends on the distance travelled. The average transit cost for a transport chain consisting of three links can then be depicted as in Fig. 3.13. The vertical lines represent the costs incurred at the nodes and any fixed costs associated with using the subsequent link. The sloping lines represent the costs incurred while transiting a link with the slope proportional to the average variable cost.

Similarly, time can be shown in the form of the graph of Fig. 3.14, as a function of distance along the chain. The average transport time of a chain is defined as the time needed to complete all activities essential for moving from the origin to the destination of the chain. The sloping lines represent the time spent moving along a link; the slope is inversely proportional to the average link speed. The vertical lines

Fig. 3.14 Transport time for a 3-leg chain. Source: Arnold (2006)

Fig. 3.15 Corridor time-cost options. Source: Arnold (2006)

represent the time spent at the nodes and include the delays associated with the frequency of services, with congestion at the nodes and with other required activities like cargo handling, transhipment, vehicle/cargo inspection, etc.

Each transport chain, then, can be represented by its average cost and time for transit. A corridor, consisting of different combinations of routes, modes, and chains can be represented by either the average time and cost for transiting the corridor or by a curve like the graph of Fig. 3.15, which combines the time-cost pairs of all transport chains that are available in the corridor. It is conceivable that an intervention in the corridor that improves both time and cost shifts the corridor frontier down and to the left.

A different approach was followed by the BE LOGIC project a few years later.

In addition to developing a methodology for benchmarking transport chains through KPIs (Kramer et al., 2009), BE LOGIC went one step further by attempting to assess the performance of the freight transportation system at a strategic level through a set of Aggregate Performance Indicators (APIs). They are higher-level characteristics than the KPIs and are expressed at a modal level, as opposed to the company/terminal/transport chain level of the KPIs. A STEEP (Socio-cultural, Technological, Economic, Ecological, and Political) analysis was used for their assessment, which was purely qualitative (BE LOGIC, 2009). The APIs proposed by BE LOGIC for the transportation services were:

• operating cost per unit of transportation activity (e.g. €/tonne-km),

• energy consumed per unit of transportation activity (e.g. toe/tonne-km),

• emissions produced per unit of transportation activity (e.g. kg of CO2/tonne-km),

• reliability (ability of mode to offer services punctual and according to the

published schedule or promised delivery date and time),

• flexibility (ability of mode to adapt to changes in demand/volume/size/timetable and to cope with serious disruptions like cancellations, strikes, etc.),

• frequency (ability of mode to offer frequent services in line with the respective demand).

Although the BE LOGIC's APIs can be modified to address all desired criteria in monitoring the performance of a corridor, they would be suitable for benchmarking purposes only if estimated on a quantitative basis which, however, was not the case.

A quantitative but equally infeasible suggestion comes from the Swedish Green Corridors Initiative presented in Sect. 3.5.1. In the lower part of Table 3.2, the chainlevel SGCI indicators are summed over all transport chains using the corridor to form the corridor-level KPIs. However, as can be seen from the corridors of Sect. 3.4, they are usually defined along broad lines making it difficult to identify the flows and services that need to be examined. Even if the corridors were more precisely defined, it is certain that the necessary data does not exist or if it did, the cost of extraction and manipulation would soon exceed the expected benefits of such undertaking.

This problem was spotted by the East-West Transport Corridor project, which suggests that the KPI analysis should be limited to a number of services along the corridor that need to be wisely selected[2] (Faste´n & Clemedtson, 2012). In fact, EWTC went on to offer the following advice concerning this selection:

• Always keep in mind the purpose of the analysis.

• Select corridor sections with few parallel operations enabling effective monitoring.

• Identify large and stable flows, usually connected to large industries.

• Select operations run by organizations that are willing to share information.

• Take advantage of existing systems for data collection including relevant ICT applications like fleet monitoring systems, electronic toll systems, etc.

• Focus on known difficulties in meeting sustainability criteria, e.g. trade imbalances, old vintage engines etc.

The methodology proposed by EWCT includes the following steps:

Step 1. Produce a clear goal statement defining the purpose of the analysis. It should also describe the intended use of the results in meeting the stated goal.

Step 2. Define the scope of the analysis in terms of the objects to be monitored.

These objects need to be described in detail in order to ensure consistency.

Step 3. Select a set of KPIs that reflect the purpose of the study and serve the monitoring needs of the selected objects.

Step 4. Set system boundaries in relation to: (i) the geographical coverage and physical boundaries of the system under examination, (ii) the activities of the transport services that comprise the sample, (iii) the activities accounted for when calculating energy consumption (e.g. life cycle), and

(iv) the time period covered.

Step 5. Collect data including through secondary data sources and expert judgments in case of missing information.

Step 6. Calculate KPIs.

The approach suggested by EWTC is sensible and practical. Its only weakness relates to the fact that, as explicitly stated by Faste´n and Clemedtson (2012), the proposed methodology aims to assess selected corridor components (services) rather than the corridor as such.

  • [1] It is worth noting that the flexibility indicator that has been proposed as a KPI earlier in the chapter does not enter the methodology, presumably due to its rather qualitative nature
  • [2] The East-West Transport Corridor II project run in parallel with SuperGreen and a certain degree of cross-fertilization took place between them.
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