The strengths in SWOT represent current strengths of CT in BSR that can give advantages over the competing modes of transport. Very important aspects here are the environmental benefits. CT is considered as one of the most environmentally-friendly transport systems or technology. It is a sustainable alternative to pure road transportation because in CT the major part of the European journey is transported by rail, inland waterways, or sea and any initial and/or last mile carried out by road are as short as possible. In addition, the weight advantage of the 44 tonnes[1] in CT compared to the 40 tonnes in standard road traffic has a positive effect on the climate balance by reducing truck transports (ERFA KV 2020). On routes where volumes can be bundled, and distance is appropriate, combined transport provides substantial energy gains and lower CO2 emissions (UIC 2015).

The list of business economic benefits of CT is long. The productivity is gained through higher capacities on long distances. For clients, the rail section brings savings on fuel (UIRR 2021). Distances in the BSR are long and with a growing transport distance of at least 300 km, CT is increasingly cost effective and therefore more attractive. In CT, the gross weight limit of 40 tonnes per truck in standard road freight transport does not apply for the first mile or main leg of CT, where trucks can weigh up to 44 tonnes. Using CT technologies enables reduced toll costs, exemptions from reduction or reimbursement of road vehicle taxes, and exemptions to driving bans as well as funding support. There are national support programs and national CT funding measures in use also in the BSR (ERFA KV 2020).   

CT enables better sharing of volumes between the different transport modes. When optimizing the transport chain, modes of transport are smart combined according to their strengths to improve the productivity of the entire transport chain and to offer economic advantages and allow for a better use of existing capacity. By using means of mass transport, namely freight trains and barges for the main leg, greater volumes of goods can be transported at once, which means economic and environmental advantages in comparison to trucks. CT is more flexible than rail-only freight transport because of the use of trucks on the first and last mile, allowing a point-to-point delivery (ERFA KV 2020). 

By using means of mass transport, CT provides a solution to high labor costs and truck driver shortage which affects the entire logistics industry (ERFA KV 2020). The advantage of CT for clients are lower manpower costs, and for instance journey by train is recognized as rest time for the driver in accompanied CT (UIRR 2021). In the BSR, labor costs are high especially in the Nordic countries. 

As a mean of transport, CT provides many advantages. Using rail and waterways instead of roads means less road traffic and congestion and less damages to roads. Rail and waterway transport are more quiet and safe modes of transport, which contribute to high level of transport safety and less accidents. CT provides a very safe and secure transportation, reducing risks of damage to goods during shipment (UIRR 2021). It is also worth to mention the high resilience to the weather conditions, especially when compared to road trucking.

In the BSR, the semi-trailer is the predominant ILU-type. Therefore, new innovative vertical and horizontal systems capable of handling semi-trailers must play a vital role in pushing combined transport in the BSR (SGKV & UIRR, 2020).

Further, several ports in the BSR with increasing volumes are a specific characteristic of the BSR that can definitely be seen as a current strength as regards to CT (UIC, 2020). 

There are also new business endeavors and models in the markets such as cooperation agreements and plans between companies to enhance and develop CR, including a joint growth strategy in a shared network with synced services. Digitalization and automation of processes is required to make logistics and supply chains simpler and more efficient (, 2021).

And exactly digitalization and automation is another advantage of CT. When comparing general conditions of possible road trucking and rail transportation, the second sector is more suitable for digital tools towards eliminating of human errors, manpower and costs related to the employment. Also, CT terminals represent high potential of digitalization and automation. At present, there are some full automated terminals running without staff on side. Only the management and monitoring of controlling and steering systems is performed by people. All in total, highly efficient rail transportation including all transshipments in the logistic chain allow better use of existing resources, smoother delivery process which is safer to society, as well as the environment.

At last, but not least important, the EU transport policy, which has a long-term perspective, aims at shifting a specific share of freight from road to rail or waterborne transport. In this context several regulations are already implemented but we should expect much more limitations for the pure road trucking in the near future including cost-generating technologies in trucking, alternative fuels (e.g., electric or hydrogen propulsion), work time limits for the drivers, as well as spatial access limits or bans for freight traffic.

[1] The additional tonnage allowed in combined transport differ in all countries. One of the recommendation should be therefore standarization of the increased maximum allowed tonnage across the EU or even wider.