Passenger and freight transportation go hand in hand, most modes of transportation being developed over time so as to meet both types of transit needs. In some cases, such as air transportation, for instance, the same vehicle is used for both. In others, the vehicles differ, but the infrastructure used by these vehicles is the same, as is the case of road and rail transportation, for example. As far as shipping is concerned, there used to be no difference between the vehicles and the terminals designed for passenger transportation and those designed for freight transportation before the 1950s. Then, specialised transportation was introduced, which led to the differentiation between the two in all areas apart from some RORO services and ferry transportation.
However, the use of a single vehicle for both passengers and cargos often raises issues, especially in situations where the infrastructure is scarce. Trucks, for instance, impair the traffic in urban areas during the day, their double-parking causing additional problems. Moreover, the efficiency of some modes of transportation drops considerably as a result of this phenomenon. Third of all, it leads to certain segments of transit systems being preferred for freight transportation purposes, especially in central areas, which further leads to the compatibility between passengers and freight being questioned.
However, there are a number of very clear advantages to combining the two. Apart from the same modes of transportation being used to meet all transit needs, these include an increased possibility to account for and amortise elevated capital costs as well as to distribute the maintenance costs.
Of course, there are also a number of drawbacks with this transport solution. For instance, the location is often a problem for the points of origin and destination often differ with passenger and freight transportation. So is the frequency, which is much higher in the case of passengers than in that of cargo shipping. Also, the timing differs, passenger transportation services often peaking at different times during the day whereas freight transportation ones tend to peak at night. Traffic balance also fits on this list of drawbacks, empty flows being very common in the freight transportation goes area and non-existent in the passenger transportation area. Thus, assets often need to be repositioned. While freight transportation focuses mainly on the high quality of services, passenger transportation focuses on timeliness, so the concept of reliability also becomes relative. Moreover, passenger transport tends to be favoured in an attempt that this timeliness be achieved. This aspect can also be linked with the operational speeds reached in each of the two areas and people’s demands in this respect. Finally, differences can be noticed in the way security checks are performed in the two branches of the transportation industry. These should be adjusted so that impairments of any kind are avoided, whether referring to the flow, terminals or modes of transportation.
A closer look at the development of passenger and freight transportation will reveal a growing divergence between the two due to the different markets they address. As far as shipping is concerned, for instance, the separation of the two has been made very clear, especially in the maritime sector. Thus, cruise shipping does not involve any kind of freight transportation, whereas bulk cargo shipping and general cargo shipping does not respond to passenger transportation needs. Only ferry services address both types of transportation needs by using RORO ships for high frequency deliveries.
As far as rail transportation is concerned, both types of services have been improved. However, passenger transit is favoured in situations where both types of services are provided, rail transportation being the main solution addressing the inter-city transit needs of people in developing areas, such as China or India, among others. European governments have also made significant investments in their rail systems in an attempt to find solutions to the increasing environmental and congestion problems associated with road transportation. Moreover, the operational speeds and comfort levels have also increased as a result of the constant improvement of the equipment, tracks and facilities. The low operational speeds of freight trains, on the other hand, have caused them to be pushed outside the daytime slots, which is one of the main factors that have led to the decline of the freight business.
North America reflects the divergence between passenger transportation and freight transportation most clearly. Its private railway companies withdrew their passenger transportation services from the market back in the 1970s due to the development of the automobile industry and airlines. Thus, they started to provide freight transportation services only and boomed along with the introduction of intermodal transportation. Since that time, passenger transportation services have been provided by public agencies like AMTRAK or the Canadian VIA Rail. However, they have been facing great difficulties, being forced to give priority to slower freight trains.
This divergence between the two types of services is slightly less pronounced when it comes to road transportation, where the same infrastructure is used by both. The main issue with this type of transportation lies in the increasing road congestion caused by freight traffic and trucks in particular. Consequently, dimension and weight restrictions have been set, while the issue of setting time restrictions is also being debated. In fact, the ultimate goal is to separate truck traffic from passenger vehicle traffic altogether.
Last but not least, this problem of divergent transportation services is also present with air transportation. However, it is less pronounced than with the other modes of transportation. Carrier companies like Singapore Airlines have known greater and greater success over the last few years mainly due to their more efficient way of addressing the needs of shippers as well as to their better timing of destinations and shipments as compared to passenger transportation service providers. However, with charter carriers and low-cost service providers gaining more and more popularity, the problem of divergent transportation services always resurfaces because of their focus on the tourism industry, which does not serve the interests of freight service providers very generously.
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