Thesis defence H. Saeedi: freight transport

15 March 2018 10:00 - Location: Aula, TU Delft - By: webredactie

Network-Level Analysis of the Market and Performance of Intermodal Freight Transport. Promotor: Prof.dr. R.A. Zuidwijk (CiTG).

Road transport has been the dominant modality for hinterland freight transport in the last two decades. This has resulted in congestion, air pollution and other external effects such as noise nuisance. Intermodal Freight Transport (IFT) as an alternative to road transport has been stimulated by the European Commission. In particular, there is a target of shifting more than 50% of freight being transported further than 300 km by road to IFT by 2050. However, despite all efforts, and running different programs, the market share of IFT is still quite limited. Assuming that having a competitive market, and improving the performance of the IFT service will result in higher market share for IFT service, this thesis analyzes the market structure and the performance of the IFT service at the network-level.

An IFT service comprises of different IFT chains—which themselves include different actors providing different services (i.e., pre- and end-haulage, transshipment, and main-haulage). All these IFT chains, together, form an IFT network. To improve the market share of IFT service, we need to get a better understanding of the market structure of the IFT network. This is especially important since market structure has been largely used as a descriptor of the conduct of players in the market. In the IFT domain, some research studies have analyzed separate segments of IFT market. However, due to the multistage characteristic of IFT service, the segmental analysis gives an incomplete view of the IFT market. In fact, the competition in an IFT network is between IFT chains or even between different corridors to transport goods from one “origin” to one “destination”. Hence, a network-based analysis is needed. Developing a network-based model for analysis of market structure of IFT networks is the first objective in this research.

The market share of IFT service could also be limited by its low performance. Therefore, we need to have methods to evaluate the performance of a whole IFT system (or IFT chains) as well as the performance of different sub-sections in the IFT chains. In this thesis, as the second objective, we present a model to measure the efficiency of the whole IFT chains at the network level.

Based on these two objectives, we formulated the following two main research questions in this thesis: 

  • How can we analyze the IFT market structure at the network level?
  • How can we measure the performance of an IFT chain in a network?

To analyze the market structure in an IFT network, we present a model called “Intermodal Freight Transport Market Structure (IFTMS) model”. This model uses graph theory and defines distinct submarkets in an IFT network. These submarkets are represented as nodes (transshipments), links (main-haulages), and paths (corridors, and ODs). Subsequently, the model combines the market structures on IFT submarkets and extends them to the network level.

To study the market structure of real IFT networks, for example the European intermodal network, there are two main challenges. First one needs to elaborate a proper definition of the relevant geographical transshipment submarkets. The other challenge is the availability of detailed data—especially at the chain level. To cope with these two main challenges, a methodology that is complementary to the IFTMS model is presented. This methodology applies a conservative model-based approach to define the geographic boundaries of the transshipment submarkets and creates a data set for market analysis.

In order to answer the second research question, we present a modified Network Data Envelopment Analysis (NDEA) model. The models aims at measuring the efficiency of the multi-division IFT chains with different structures (number of divisions). This model considers the concept of “value of the service” as the intermediate measure in the modeling.

The developed models and achievements of this thesis can have different policy implications: The IFTMS model could be used by antitrust authorities to investigate the anticompetitive practices in the IFT network. They can evaluate the effects of different business practices on competition and concentration in the IFT market and overall on the welfare of the society. It can also be used by business managers to examine the market implications of their business practices. The impact of policies to promote IFT in the EU or the other continents can also be evaluated using this model.

The NDEA model could be used by policy-makers to have an overall assessment of the performance of IFT systems, and determine the less efficient divisions. These results can support policy makers to determine the primary targets for performance improvement (and policy design), in order to promote IFT service.

Besides the presented models in this thesis, the application of the models to the case of EU intermodal network has resulted in some managerial insights. The analysis of EU IFT network shows that in most areas in Europe the transshipment and main-haulage submarkets are highly concentrated. Applying the efficiency model to a sample of European IFT network also suggests that - to improve the performance of the IFT network - the focus of policy-makers, in the majority of corridors, should be on improving the performance of terminals. 

More information?

For access to theses by the PhD students you can have a look in TU Delft Repository, the digital storage of publications of TU Delft. Theses will be available within a few weeks after the actual thesis defence.