dissertation on rail freight management

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Dissertation on rail freight management sample essay introduction

Dissertation on rail freight management

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Background: Although rail transport appears to be well established and outperforming other transport modes in Europe and beyond, in the majority of developing economies it was observed that firms and travellers were, on the contrary, shunning from the rail.

Despite considerable infrastructural investments in the African rail systems, the sector has been deteriorating over the years. Method: The objectives of this study are achieved through a survey of Windhoek-based industrial and logistics firms operating in Namibia.

Self-administered survey questionnaires were distributed through the aid of trained research assistants. The study confirms that the transport mode used and ownership of the freight transport services used can affect the degree of satisfaction for the transportation of goods in Namibia. Conclusion: Namibian industrial and logistics firms avoid using rail, owing to its low level of satisfaction obtained from its use.

Besides engaging in Public Private Partnerships PPPs in rail transport operations, the study contends that rail transport should receive attention similar to that given to other transport modes for African economies such as Namibia to overcome the costs associated with the increasing road congestion. The different modes of transport have been deemed equally critical in enhancing mobility in both developed and developing countries. Literature reports that rail freight transport has been widely credited for a number of benefits, some of which include:.

Of late, there have been quite a number of freight railroad innovations enhancing the environmental friendliness and sustainability of rail transport. For instance, there has been a rise in the use of modern and more fuel-efficient locomotives, and the use of idling-reduction technologies e.

Despite all these and other benefits, rail is today a minimally used transport mode in most developing economies, for both passenger and freight transportation. As road transport has become the most favoured land mode of mobility, road congestion has become unavoidable in Namibia and other African countries. With the increase in road carnage, global road safety crisis remedies have become necessary Cole With the ever-increasing road congestion, it could be only reasonable to assume that rail becomes the next preferred mode of inland transport.

However, this has not been the case in Namibia. Passengers and freight institutions alike have been avoiding using rail transport, preferring the congested roads. This exploratory study identifies the rail freight transport problems faced by African developing economies and examines the potential actions and factors for minimising such problems, drawing lessons from the literature of success stories reviewed by the study. These objectives were addressed through a survey of industrialised and logistics firms operating in Namibia.

Research related to rail transport generated some interests particularly in the late eighties but went into a dormant phase thereafter. With the increasing interests in rail transport especially in the developed world to avert ever-increasing road congestion , rail research interests have been revived.

Thus, there has been very little formal research done on the rail freight transport issues within an African context worst still from a Namibian perspective. Some of the problems cited include the lack of cargo tracing services, inadequate infrastructure, negative attitude, rigid government regulations, lack of training, manpower shortage, poor service delivery dependability, excessive loading and unloading time at shipment and transshipment terminals, as well as unavailability of transport services.

Different actions have been taken by firms to counter these challenges, and these include establishing and running own transport fleets, exercising caution in the selection of outsourced carriers and switching to intermodal transport rather than relying on unimodal transport systems. Unfortunately, the rail transport system has been deserted in the process. These and other studies have concluded that the transport systems in Namibia are expected to improve if the national priority development goal to become a regional hub is to be achieved.

Within these transport systems are rail transport systems. Railway transport occupies a significant role in the transport system of a country because the development of trade, industry and commerce of a country largely depends on the development of railways. Even those economies whose rail sectors are currently faring well once had some challenges. For instance, in the mid-nineties, one study by Speece and Kawahara examined transport issues in China and cited infrastructural development issues and some challenges encountered with the use of rail, road and water modes.

The rail lines and locomotives were then described as old. The system was characterised by shipment theft and this further burdened the inefficiencies of the system. Not only China has experienced this. In the late nineties, the European rail system once suffered in terms of productivity, efficiency measurement issues, and train schedule optimisation issues.

The European Union has at some point had many of its railway lines lacking conformity to modern design standards and has suffered from poor maintenance strategies Gavin et al. Irfan, Kee and Shahbaz reported some rail service quality issues and other concerns in Pakistan. At some point, Europe faced some challenges regarding rail transactional costs, including the costs of misalignment of incentives between actors created by some seemingly failed structural reforms in the sector.

In response to this, Van de Velde et al. Justified by mixed conclusions from previous studies regarding this matter, this study by Van de Velde et al. More recently, Mizutani et al. The study was part of efforts to address a policy debate within Europe structuring the railway systems in order to enrich competition, while minimising costs. The same issue was further echoed by Makovsek, Benezech and Perkins , in support of Smith and Christopher , whose studies both bemoan efficiency issues in railway operations and infrastructure management.

This challenge has a lot in common with most of the railway sectors in developing economies such as Namibia. Bulgaria also faced an almost similar challenge. The privatisation and deregulation of the Polish industry as Poland moved from a centrally controlled economy to a market economy came along with a host of challenges, most of which were resolved through proper logistics training by foreign experts Rydzkowski However, the rail sectors in these economies have experienced substantial improvements over the last two decades, in terms of ownership, competition and industry liberalisation, and the author explores some object lessons from the transformations that can be adopted in trying to improve the African situation.

In , one specific study by Nollet, Leenders and Diorio attempted to explore the supply-chain-related challenges in Africa through face-to-face interviews with 35 supply managers. The study identified a multifaceted selection of challenges, comprising the lack of foreign currency to pay for imports, the recurrent breakdown of transport equipment, the high cost of communication and the poor condition of the highway and railroad infrastructure.

Other challenges included the lack of qualified personnel trained in logistics and supply management and the corrupt practices of customs officials. However, no solutions were proffered as the authors felt that the data were too scarce. The study was, therefore, inconclusive. Besides substantiating the more specific rail transport challenges in Namibia, this study draws lessons from the success stories from sectors that once faced similar challenges, and attempts to fill in this gap by offering recommendations to improve the dire situation.

This exploratory study mixes qualitative research and quantitative analysis to comprehend and examine the rail transport concerns of Namibian freight companies. Findings from these preliminary interviews together with a review of the literature provided a base for, and very pragmatic insights into, the formulation of the following hypotheses:.

Despite the economic and social costs that road accidents have had in Namibia and Africa at large, the road-based transport has still remained the most favoured mode of transport for both freight and passenger mobility. There has been a growing concern in Namibia of the high prevalence of road traffic accidents Motor Vehicle Accident Fund , On the contrary, accidents related to rail transport in Namibia have been very rarely reported.

The following hypothesis is thus formulated:. Namibian industrialised firms could be very keen to work with TransNamib, but they probably feel that they cannot control the rail transportation process:. The affected parties, however, usually question the commitment of the government and its priority framework.

Even though the Namibian government has invested in baseline rail infrastructure through constructing rail lines across the whole country as shown in Figure 1 , interested parties still believe that a lot more could still be done to upgrade the system to meet not only the modern standards but also to meet the expectations of the interested parties.

This study thus further hypothesises that the limited access to this much called for appropriate rail infrastructure affects the utilisation of rail transport in developing economies such as Namibia. The arguments for privatising some of the state carriers, including rail and air transport, or opening the modes to free market competition remain some of the unresolved issues in the developing economies like Namibia.

More specifically, the method formulated the survey instrument questions from literature and results from the pilot study preliminary interviews. This would ensure that the survey is conducted amongst those firms that are currently using rail, have at some point used rail or have a potential of using rail transport for moving their freight. This would also enhance the accuracy of the study.

Only ninety companies were, however, considered eligible. Mainly targeted at logistics and distribution key personnel within the target firms, the self-administered survey questionnaire was distributed through the aid of trained research assistants. A single data collection instrument was used across all respondents from both industrial and logistics firms. Results obtained were generalised across these firms because it was assumed that these firms were likely to share the same sentiments and possibly face similar challenges regarding rail transport usage in Namibia.

Of the 90 self-administered questionnaires distributed, 80 were returned. Guided by literature and the results of the pilot study, the questionnaire was comprised of four thematic sections whose questioning revolved around: 1 respondent company profile and background, 2 perceptual issues regarding rail freight transport in Namibia, 3 rail transport concerns and problems and 4 actions taken to minimise the rail transport problems.

Statistics from Table 1 also show the type of cargo or freight moved by the respondent firms follows a normal distribution with the construction and industrial products category being the dominant one The country has also been undergoing massive infrastructural development in an effort to pursue the dream of becoming a logistics hub for Southern Africa NPC The majority of the respondents who participated in this study were from the transport and logistics section of their respective firms The industrial and logistics firms found the rail to be the less satisfactory mode of transport as compared to road transport.

On the contrary, it emerged that when using Namibian rail transport, one must bear in mind that most of the rail heads have minimal facilities for products that require special handling facilities, and in most cases, there is always need for road transport to complete the journey.

Firms could perhaps improve rail transport by building their own branch-off lines to link their plants or depots to the main rail networks. The t -test results indicate that there are significant differences in the mean degrees of satisfaction for different ownership types. Respondents felt that they do not have any control over the movement of their rail freight from one point to the other. The lower satisfaction scores for the rail services could also be attributed to the poor state of infrastructure and equipment used in the rail transport networks in Namibia.

It also emerged that the rail service provider lacks commitment in improving basic customer services such as delivery reliability and provision of personalised service. A possible reason for this trend could be that rail operators in developing economies think that rail logistics is not as critical as other transport modes. It is important to note that certain functions within the rail transport sector especially technical issues may require the use of expatriates even though they may be more expensive and demanding to attract.

From the analysis of rail transport success stories elsewhere, the study established that most of these rail operators have a number of expatriates who were hired for both technical and managerial functions. Thus, although the local expertise can manage certain aspects of the rail transport chain more effectively, it is critical to also engage some imported personnel to manage the other aspects.

The rail transport concerns in Namibia are revealed in Table 2. The problem with the highest mean score 5. It emerged that problem could be attributed to poor or inadequate rail transport signal equipment including vandalised equipment , lack of appropriate cargo handling equipment at many of the rail heads in Namibia, poor telecommunications and information technologies. The available rail infrastructure has not been well maintained. For instance, dunes have not been well managed such that they now close some of the railway lines, whereas, in some cases, trees are seen blocking some railways tracks.

All these issues have created a chain of problems such as difficulties in tracking cargo during delivery and in-transit thus prompting unexpected delays. The poor infrastructure was also attributed to the shortage of human capital to maintain and establish new railways. As a result, the prevailing old-fashioned technology has seen Namibian railways carry less cargo compared to the modern standard gauges elsewhere. The respondents strongly felt that the government should expand railroad capacity and they perceived that the government fell short of their expectations regarding channelling more resources to railway infrastructure.

Another major problem was poor service delivery from TransNamib, the local state-controlled rail operator. Respondents cited poor reliability in terms of not delivering the goods on time. It emerged that the rail operator lacks customer service orientation, has poor communications with customers and lacks a sense of urgency, thus they do not act expeditiously when eventualities occur.

Consequently, Namibian rail has not managed to withstand competition from other modes of transport such as road, which the respondents perceived to be faster and more reliable. Third-ranked was the problem related to lack of rail career selection and hence the lack of competition, a problem that most respondents attributed to the ill-service that they receive from TransNamib. Evidently, there is a need for the government to increase competition via rail regulatory liberalisation and deregulation.

This has proven to have a potential to improve efficiency in many European rail sectors as concluded by Oum, Waters and Chunyan Ranked fourth was the lack of intermodal services with a mean of 5. Respondents lamented the lack of proper linkage of the rail network to other modes of transports such as road and sea. October 21, Netherlands Railways and Erasmus University signed an agreement on extending the cooperation on research in Management Science in Railways.

Click here for more details in Dutch. October 20, Click here for a link to an interview in Dutch with me on BNR Nieuwsradio about software for crew rescheduling. Afterwards the plaques and cash prize for the first place of the Franz Edelman Award were presented to us. Tom and Graham were our coaches during the competition. The Edelman Award is also known as the "super-bowl of Operations Research".

On the pictures you see the team receiving the award at the gala dinner and showing the medals. Earlier on the day, all six finalists gave a presentation on their work. During the academic years and , I have taught the courses Quantitative methods for Logistics.

In earlier years , , and , this course was known as Quantitative methods for location, distibution and transportation. During the academic year , I have taught the course Logistieke modellen 1 Logistics models; first part about facility location and vehicle routing. Furthermore, I have taught the following case studies in the master seminar Logistic Case Studies :.

Erik Essink : "A genetic algorithm for constructing and optimising railway timetables" Nikki van de Ven; : "Task-level shift planning for airport gorund staff" Bart van Genderen: "Allo cation of maritime assets in surveillance missions" , together with TNO. Dennis Vlugt : "Robust railway crew schedules" Susanne Sinnema : "Modeling passenger buy-down behavior in airline revenue management" , together with Gerard Kindervater and KLM.

Marian Teeuw : "Het mes erin om beter te worden - onderzoek naar operatiekamerplanning" , together with Albert Wagelmans and Pointlogic. Currently, the focus of my research is on public transport optimization, in particular railway applications. Examples are crew rescheduling, crew rostering and rolling stock management.

During the last years, I spent most time on developing an algorithm for crew re-scheduling. The problem deals with the re-scheduling the duties of train drivers and conductors in case of adjusted timetables and rolling stock plans. These changes are mainly caused by construction works on the railway infrastructure.

Together with Daniel Potthoff, I worked on crew re-scheduling during disruptions. This research is the topic of the PhD dissertation of Daniel, who graduated on October 21, Together with Twan Dollevoet , I worked on delay management and dispatching problems in the railway world.

Twan defended his PhD thesis on January 10, The title of his dissertation is Delay Management and Dispatching in Railways. Erwin Abbink graduated on different aspects of crew management. Erwin defended his thesis on October 24, Click here to enlarge the pictures. An electronic version of my thesis can be found here.

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Marian Teeuw : "Het mes erin om beter te worden - onderzoek naar operatiekamerplanning" , together with Albert Wagelmans and Pointlogic. Currently, the focus of my research is on public transport optimization, in particular railway applications. Examples are crew rescheduling, crew rostering and rolling stock management.

During the last years, I spent most time on developing an algorithm for crew re-scheduling. The problem deals with the re-scheduling the duties of train drivers and conductors in case of adjusted timetables and rolling stock plans. These changes are mainly caused by construction works on the railway infrastructure. Together with Daniel Potthoff, I worked on crew re-scheduling during disruptions.

This research is the topic of the PhD dissertation of Daniel, who graduated on October 21, Together with Twan Dollevoet , I worked on delay management and dispatching problems in the railway world. Twan defended his PhD thesis on January 10, The title of his dissertation is Delay Management and Dispatching in Railways. Erwin Abbink graduated on different aspects of crew management.

Erwin defended his thesis on October 24, Click here to enlarge the pictures. An electronic version of my thesis can be found here. My promotors were Albert Wagelmans and Rommert Dekker. Until he passed away on January 29, , I was also supervised by Richard Freling. Nederlandse Spoorwegen Dutch Railways.

This project, Rintel, deals with shunting passenger train units in a railway station. Before I was involved, Richard Freling did a lot of work in this project. Based on this project, we have written an article entitled " Shunting of Passenger Train Units in a Railway Station " which has been published in Transportation Science see publications.

Moreover, Ramon Lentink and myself, won the first prize in the student research paper contest on Management Science in Railroad Applications with this paper in Click here for pictures of the ceremony. Or view directly on YouTube. July 10, publications, courses and list of students updated. See this link for pictures of the defense. Other highlights: May 31, A joint paper with Leo Kroon won the first prize in the challenge "Even more trains, even more on time" on the World Congres on Railway Research in Lille.

Olmo Verhagen : "Planning Maritime Pilots" Research Current research projects Currently, the focus of my research is on public transport optimization, in particular railway applications. Follow the link for my publications. Management and Memberships I am one of the founders of the Erasmus Center for Optimization in Public Transport ECOPT , where we study planning problems that arise in public transport and develop solution methods for these problems and software to support the planning processes.

Welcome to the homepage of Dennis Huisman. The problem with the highest mean score 5. It emerged that problem could be attributed to poor or inadequate rail transport signal equipment including vandalised equipment , lack of appropriate cargo handling equipment at many of the rail heads in Namibia, poor telecommunications and information technologies. The available rail infrastructure has not been well maintained.

For instance, dunes have not been well managed such that they now close some of the railway lines, whereas, in some cases, trees are seen blocking some railways tracks. All these issues have created a chain of problems such as difficulties in tracking cargo during delivery and in-transit thus prompting unexpected delays. The poor infrastructure was also attributed to the shortage of human capital to maintain and establish new railways. As a result, the prevailing old-fashioned technology has seen Namibian railways carry less cargo compared to the modern standard gauges elsewhere.

The respondents strongly felt that the government should expand railroad capacity and they perceived that the government fell short of their expectations regarding channelling more resources to railway infrastructure.

Another major problem was poor service delivery from TransNamib, the local state-controlled rail operator. Respondents cited poor reliability in terms of not delivering the goods on time. It emerged that the rail operator lacks customer service orientation, has poor communications with customers and lacks a sense of urgency, thus they do not act expeditiously when eventualities occur.

Consequently, Namibian rail has not managed to withstand competition from other modes of transport such as road, which the respondents perceived to be faster and more reliable. Third-ranked was the problem related to lack of rail career selection and hence the lack of competition, a problem that most respondents attributed to the ill-service that they receive from TransNamib.

Evidently, there is a need for the government to increase competition via rail regulatory liberalisation and deregulation. This has proven to have a potential to improve efficiency in many European rail sectors as concluded by Oum, Waters and Chunyan Ranked fourth was the lack of intermodal services with a mean of 5. Respondents lamented the lack of proper linkage of the rail network to other modes of transports such as road and sea.

Given that most industrial and logistics firms in Namibia are not linked up directly to the railway line, it emerged that users are looking forward to a situation whereby rail heads are connected to the waterways and road network. This could be done through the development of intermodal ports where different modes of transport including rail converge. It is worthwhile to note that some of the concerns raised had relatively higher standard deviations.

For instance, the lack of provision of door-to-door service has the highest degree of standard deviation 1. This might be due to the fact that rail transport is tied to a particular track; hence, different respondents had varying ratings depending on their access to the rail network. Though some few respondent firms had access to the main rail network through rail sidings, the majority did not have such access.

The relatively large variations in other challenges such as the lack of intermodal service, the unavailability of choice of rail transport services and theft or pilferage problems could also be due to variations in access to rail networks. This limits the number of both passenger and freight rail activities.

This biased policy-making has been worsened by reports of embezzlement of funds allocated for the rail network that never gets recovered or taken seriously. Other concerns that emerged include transshipment issues including delays, greater cost and increased chances of wear and tear and limited flexibility as the network does not reach all corners of Namibia. A further analysis of the rail transport problems suggests that the 15 problems can be categorised into four groups, but not necessarily following their ranking order.

The four groups include challenges related to infrastructural development and maintenance, service delivery issues, government policy as well as organisational policy issues. The fact that these groupings are not necessarily following the ranking order implies that the rail transport challenges that Namibia is facing should be given equal attention. In order to substantiate some of the presumptions regarding rail transport in Namibia, hypotheses were developed and consequently tested.

Table 3 shows a summary of the hypotheses tests results. From the summary of hypotheses results, all the four proposed hypotheses were supported. These supported hypotheses confirm the major findings. In this study, the findings of a survey conducted on Windhoek-based industrial and logistics firms were discussed.

The study concludes that Namibian industrial and logistics firms avoid using rail, because of its low level of satisfaction obtained from its use. Despite the increasing road congestion and costs associated with road transport, it emerged that Namibian industrial and logistics firms still derive higher satisfaction in owning a fleet of vehicles.

Although to some it has been a matter of a negative attitude building up over the years, the study also concludes that the low level of satisfaction is a result of neglected rail infrastructure, lack of intermodal transport services and poor service delivery from TransNamib, the state-owned rail operator. Based on the conclusions above, the study reiterates that rail transport is just essential as the other modes of transport and should not be restricted nor sidelined as if it were a national burden.

More effort should be put in rail infrastructure so that freight mobility may be moved from the congested road to rail for sustainable transport future Alessandrini et al. Marketing and advertising should be utilised so that more potential rail freight users are aware of trains and that they are not expensive and can be used by anyone in need. In fact, there is need to market the rail services in a manner that is similar to what those in trucking business do.

The development of a Multimodal Urban Distribution Centre could also be considered, drawing lessons from European experiences Alessandrini et al. It is also high time Namibia should start dreaming and imagining the usage of electrical and high-speed trains. These could go a long way in enhancing pollution reduction, speed and competitiveness with other land modes of transport. As a result, there has been growing competition amongst the truck firms and this has caused road logistics charges to drop significantly and service quality to rise tremendously.

This has put pressure on the local companies to improve as competition has also been emanating from foreign trucking players. However, the researcher argues that catching up is still very possible. Besides embracing the above recommendations, this study closes by cherry picking some lessons that Namibia can learn from other countries that have had their success stories well documented. It emerged from the study that the rail transport sector is operated by the state. Drawing lessons from other successful rail sectors in the developed world, governments of developing economies such as Namibia should consider encouraging private carriers to operate in rail transport.

There is need to encourage private sector involvement including foreign investors in rail management in order to improve railway efficiency and reduce structural distress emanating from maintenance work costs. The role of PPPs as a mechanism for freight transport infrastructure delivery can never be underestimated as propounded by Ittmann Such ports could serve as platforms to interlink rail with other modes of transport. The weakness of one mode of transport could then be overcome by the strength of the other mode of transport at such intermodal ports.

The Namibian government should also consider raising funds through toll fees as a way of raising revenue. There is also need to consider the establishment and expansion of rail sidings to industry and logistics along the current rail network. This could enhance usage of rail transport by such firms. At some point, the German rail sector introduced access charge regulations Link , and currently, it is one of the countries with the best-managed rail sectors. It should be noted that, apart from expecting the government to do much of the work in alleviating the situation, the independent efforts by the affected firms can also go a long way in resolving the rail transport problems.

For instance, logistics firms could pool their resources together and build infrastructure such as rail sidings. Combined efforts of private firms and the government could even help in coming up with more efficient and cost-effective ways to resolve the current rail transport concerns in developing economies.

The state could focus on funding issues, while the private firm partners could use their market analytics to focus on marketing and promotion of rail transport. The study established the emergence of poor service delivery from the current rail freight providers, TransNamib.

Poor service delivery ranked second with a mean of 5. Thus, in order to address this, the parastatal should consider offering employee training on excellent customer service. The institution must also consider the provision of training and incentive programmes to help their key personnel such as locomotive engineers to develop and apply best practices and improve their awareness of fuel-efficient rail freight operations.

This will help in saving the parastatal a lot of costs. Namibia is currently in the process of building and upgrading its road network and elevating the road transport network to meet world standards. If road freight is not managed properly, all these massive investments may be in vain as lots of resources will be churned towards maintenance works. Hence, shifting freight from trucks to rail will save the Namibian economy from these enormous costs through the reduction of highway deterioration as well as reducing government pressure to construct new costly highways.

The author declares that he has no financial or personal relationships that may have inappropriately influenced him in writing this article. Alessandrini, A. Babalik-Sutcliffe, E. Cole, T. Di Mascio, P. Granger, R. Gavin, K. Huu-Phuong, T. Irfan, S.

Ittmann, H. Li, P. Link, H. Makovsek, D. Mary, J. Meek, S. The implementation and effectiveness of transport demand management measures: An international perspective , Ashgate, Burlington, VT, pp. Mizutani, F. Murty, K. Nollet, J.

Oum, T. Owen, A. Pan, S. Perkins, P. Persson, G. Rakotoarisoa, M. Rydzkowski, W. Savage, C. Smith, A. Speece, M. Tukuta, M. Van de Velde, D. Citation Saruchera, F. Original Research. Rail freight transportation concerns of developing economies: A Namibian perspective.

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