Welcome to the United Nations
Public transport

Multi--‐modal sustainable transport and transit solutions: connecting  rail, maritime, road  and air

Sunday, 27 November, 3:00 – 4:00 P.M.

Lead  entity: UNCTAD

Integrated multi--‐modal transport and transit systems  that optimize the  comparative advantages of each  mode of transport  are crucial in order  to achieve sustainable  transport of passengers  and freight within and between  countries. Road,  rail, maritime, ferry and air transport, as well  as non--‐motorized  transport such  as walking and  cycling, need to be taken into account  and emphasis  should be placed on low--‐carbon--‐based  energy modes of  transport and an increased  reliance on public transport  systems. Sustainable multimodal  transport and transit systems  can provide  an array  of options for  passenger and freight transport and successfully connect citizens  and countries while supporting  economic growth, social development and global trade. 

Freight transport is a  strategic economic sector that also enables international trade, underpins global supply chains, and  allows access to markets  by linking consumers and producers,  importers and exporters. While maritime freight accounted for  over 80% of global merchandise trade by volume and over 70  % by value in 2015,  seamless door--‐to--‐door transport requires physical continuity  of trade flows. This is achieved by integrating  other modes of transport as well as associated transport and logistics services to  ensure smooth movement of freight. 

With freight transport growing in tandem with  an expanding world  economy and population  growth, the sector is  facing growing  demands for greater  efficiency while at  the same time  exerting additional pressure  on the global natural resources,  environment and climate. Freight transportation  is a major consumer  of oil and contributes significant shares to  global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG)   and air pollution.  In view of the  current transportation patterns and  the projected  growth in freight  transport activity and fuel  consumption, promoting sustainable freight transportation  systems across all modes is  crucial. 

While the definitions of  sustainable transport may vary and may  promote any particular dimension  such as the environment (green transport), society (inclusive transport) or the  economy (efficient and competitive transport), sustainable transport involves among  others, the availability of safe, socially acceptable,  universally accessible, reliable, affordable, fuel--‐efficient,  environmentally friendly, low--‐ carbon, and climate--‐resilient, transport infrastructure  services and operations. 

Achieving  sustainable transport has  been recognized as a  development objective since  the 1992  Earth Summit  and referred to in  the outcomes  of the United  Nations Conference on Sustainable  Development (RIO+20), UNCTAD  conferences and in number of  the General Assembly resolutions, and most  importantly in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted in September 2015. 

Various  measures can help promote sustainable freight  transport. These include, among  others: measures affecting  supply  chain design, reshaping transport  configurations and networks; switching  to low carbon  energy sources and  technologies; improving vehicle and  propulsion technology, planning and organizing routings and scheduling  to reduce empty millage and optimizing  operations, shifting travel  to the most sustainable modes of transport, improving and  use planning, enabling greater access to information and communication technology as well  as ensuring harmonized regulatory frameworks for international transport. One  measure increasingly considered as within  the freight transport sustainability debate, is the use of  intermodal/multimodal transport. Effectively linking and combining different modes of transport across the chain is  emerging as an attractive sustainability option  given its potential to achieve greater  balance between economic, social  and environmental aspects of  freight transport.  Containerisation, globalisation, developments in transportation systems,  information technologies, and the potential  to generate additional value,  including environmental and social,  have all contributed to creating new opportunities for  greater intermodality/multimodality.   

Intermodal/multimodal  transport can support sustainability objectives by, inter  alia, helping rationalize  infrastructure; promoting the  use of appropriate modes; improving  service levels and  logistics performance (e.g. speed,  reliability, order fills), reducing costs (e.g. inventory and transport): enabling access  to distant areas including rural  by connecting rural freight transport infrastructure to markets, optimizing door--‐to--‐door transport. In addition, it can reduce energy consumption and alleviate carbon emissions. 

Optimizing the sustainability dividend of intermodal/multimodal transport requires however hat persistent  underlying challenges  be addressed. There is  need to address infrastructure capacity constraints;  interoperability (vehicles, systems, technologies) and interconnection issues (e.g. transfer points, facilities, logistics services); cross modal boundaries including the coherence of regulatory frameworks across modes.1 It also requires  improving the management of existing capacity and assets at the supply chain  level, not only at nodes; leveraging the gains from cross modal competition; and, enabling public--‐private partnerships (PPPs) not only as investment strategy to improve transport infrastructure and logistics but also as a means to access specialized skills, innovations, and new technologies associated with the development, operation and maintenance of transport infrastructure and services. Finally, cooperation among transport industry players and across modes, including in the form of partnerships, is essential to benefit from underlying synergies and complementarities as well as to ensure a more balanced trade--‐off  between costs and benefits among supply chain players. 

A special case requiring urgent attention relates to “the first and  last mile” segment of a  freight transport journey. Improving the efficiency of this segment of deliveries  is crucial for the sustainability of  freight transportation. In addition, the growth  of home deliveries or deliveries within  newly implemented networks of  pick--‐up points (e.g. e--‐commerce and online shopping) dramatically  alter the distribution patterns of economic activity and pose new and, as  of yet, not fully understood  logistics challenges for urban environments.2 Urban freight is not well integrated into transport and economic development strategies  of cities especially in developing countries.3 There is a need to shift the view  about the  role of urban  freight transport  within the  logistics chain  and city  development and  consider ways in which intermodality/multimodality  can improve the efficiency and performance of  this freight activity,  including through  linkages to passenger  transport as urban passenger and freight  movements share finite  infrastructure and  urban space to  satisfy the ever--‐increasing demand for transport.4

1 IRU (2016). Transit Costs in East and Southern Africa. September 29.

2 See “Sustainable Urban Mobility and Public Transport in UNECE Capitals”, UNECE, 2015, available at

http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/trans/main/wp5/publications/Sustainable_Urban_Mobility_and_Public_T ransport_FINAL.pdf 

Intermodal/multimodal  transport through transit transport corridors is of prime importance for landlocked developing countries  (LLDCs) where  transport costs represent  an average of  77  per cent of the value of exports and where poor  road infrastructure is responsible  for 4 per cent of the transport costs against per  cent in landlocked  countries.5 Revenue losses from inefficient border procedures may exceed 5 per  cent of GDP.6 In  this respect, the superiority  of international transit systems such as TIR over national  bonds has been demonstrated.  A recent study by  the IRU revealed  that the world’s only universal  customs transit system helped reduce trade costs in various transit transport corridors in Africa. Making the most efficient use of existing physical and regulatory infrastructure7 or developing new systems is  important. This has been  illustrated in the case of the Northern and Central transit and transport corridors in East Africa, for example. In this respects, efforts by the Northern Corridor Transit and Transport  Coordination Authority (NCTTCA) to integrate the three  dimensions of sustainability in its strategic plans is worth noting. 

Multimodal passenger transport is also essential especially for rural areas in particular in developing countries,  where the ‘last mile’—the distance from  a transport hub— ay, in fact, be a  hundred miles or more. Communities in rural  areas of developing countries are often completely disconnected from the major roads, rail lines, and public  transport options that enable access to the economic and social activities and opportunities in cities. Addressing these circumstances will be needed in order to fulfil the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development promise  to ‘leave no one behind.’ Information and communication technology (ICT) can also facilitate the implementation of intermodal solutions, as precise tracking systems ease coordination and the development of smart hubs and facilitate load optimization. 

Therefore, development of sustainable freight and passenger  transport, including through integrated port terminals, well planned airports and harmonized standards and regulations or  efficient border crossings, will also enable economic growth. Estimates show that improvements in border administration, transport and communication infrastructure could see a global GDP increase by US$2.6 trillion or  4.7 per cent .8  

3 Gota, Sudhir (2015). A call to action on green freight in cities EcoMobility dialogues.  Technical Paper. September. 4 See CE/TRANS/2015/1,  “Rethinking  Sustainable Urban Transport and Mobility to meet the challenges of a new era” available at http://www.unece.org/trans/events/2015/itc77_policy_segment.html 

5 UNCTAD (2013). The Way to the Ocean --‐ Transit corridors servicing the trade of landlocked developing countries. UNCTAD/DTL/TLB/2012/1 ( http://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/dtltlb2012d1_en.pdf).  

6See  OECD Policy Paper No.150: “Trade costs – What have we learned?” A synthesis report 

7 See United Nations Conventions and agreements on international transport at: http://www.unece.org/trans/conventn/legalinst.html   

8World Economic Forum, 2013: Enabling trade  – Valuing Growth Opportunities (www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_SCT_EnablingTrade_Report_2013.pdf).   

Possible  questions for discussion:

1. What  is the current state of play in terms of the sustainability  of freight and passenger  transport, including in the light of the SDGs and the  2030  Agenda for Sustainable Development including opportunities, obstacles and challenges? 

2. What are the relevant experiences and measures/methods reflecting efforts to implement sustainable freight and passenger transport  systems/intermodal/multimodal transport, including by  governments and the private sector? 

3. What are the enabling factors including financing, capacity--‐building, technology, research and cooperation and what are the good practices, successful experiences and opportunities associated with the wider dissemination and potential replication of sustainable freight transport systems/intermodal/multimodal transport in particular in developing countries?