Railway transport is an essential branch of a country’s transport system, lying at the basis of its entire trading, commercial and industrial activity. However, as does everything, it also has its advantages as well as its disadvantages.
The advantages of railway transport
Railway transport is an ideal solution for shipping bulky cargos, especially over long distances. In fact, it has proved to be the best option for long-distance shipping, being both fast and safe. Thus, while it helps meet regular shipping needs, it can also provide an effective solution in critical situations such as famine or scarcity, among many others. In this context, its elastic carrying capacity should also be noted as one of the greatest advantages of this mode of transport. As far as safety is concerned, it should be noted that the railway accident rate is the lowest among all modes of transport. Moreover, the impact of the weather is the lowest with this mode of transport, traffic being relatively easy to manage in unfavourable, even extreme weather conditions as opposed to road, air or sea transport.
As already mentioned, railways and railway transport implicitly constitute one of the pillars of a country’s industrial activity. One of the explanations lies in the lower costs associated with the mass transport of coal and raw materials in general. However, it plays an equally important role as a public utility solution, being equally cheap and therefore providing an ideal transport solution for the poor as per the what-the-traffic-can-bear principles it is based on. In fact, it is these principles that have turned railway transport into a national necessity. And with that come great employment opportunities as well.
The disadvantages of railway transport
While the charges associated with railway transport are low, the maintenance costs, construction costs and overhead expenses are significant, causing the capital investment demands to be higher than with any other mode of transport. This situation creates a perfect opportunity for the rise of monopolies and the neglect of the public interest, which in turn nurtures the risk of inefficiency and higher costs being implemented.
Moreover, the specific and inflexible nature of the investments required in the area of railway transport can lead to massive resource wastage. In fact, inflexibility sets itself apart as an overall characteristic of this particular mode of transport, the response to individual needs being limited, to say the least. Furthermore, it cannot provide door-to-door delivery services, any additional operation, whether loading or unloading, causing the costs, time expenses and wear to increase.