The railway is part of a wide range of land transport around the world that, as a whole, allows the transport of people and goods from the place where they are to the place where they want to go or where they are needed. The road, air, sea and rail transport services have different characteristics that reflect advantages and disadvantages according to the particular situation of the operation.
In this way, to choose the type of transport to use, it will be necessary to take into account the needs(the urgency of the delivery, the type of merchandise to be transported, the quantity, the size, the destination of the cargo, the distance to travel, etc.) and the possibilities of each type of transport (available costs and resources, route status, weather conditions, etc.).
Advantages of rail transport
- Large capacity: allows the transport of large quantities of goods over long distances.
- The costs of the operation are, in general, quite low.
- Flexibility: it is possible to transport varieties of merchandise.
- Low accident rate
- Little pollutant.
- Compared to road transport, it avoids the problems of traffic congestion.
- Possibility of inter modality with other transport methods.
Disadvantages of rail transport
- Share the railroad with the transportation of people, who are preferred.
- Low speed.
- Subjected to physical restrictions of height and volumes of passage by the different types of gauges.
- Infrastructure unit: In some countries the railway infrastructure does not exist or is very limited.
- Width of roads: Spain and Portugal have a different track width than the rest of the countries in Europe. This requires having to transfer the goods or use wagons with interchangeable axles with the loss of time and costs that this entails.
- The merchandise can only be transported to where the tracks arrive, that is, it can not reach specific warehouses or production centers.
- Need to use another transport to transfer the cargo to the storage site or the place of operations.
The reality is that rail transport is an intermodal system that, with very specific exceptions, needs the road. And the transshipments of the load, the so-called friction costs, are very expensive. In fact, they can represent between 25% and 40% of the total cost of rail transport.