External threats create barriers for CT. For instance, a technology shift or a change in legal framework could endanger the profitability of the business. Market and price development could create a threat to CT—but could of course turn to an opportunity as well. The impact of COVID-19 on transport volumes and costs has created a threat to CT market and created ambiguity concerning the market in general (UIC 2020). Legislative and regulatory challenges as well as limitations on government funding and limited support for development of sustainable transportation modes creates barriers to CT. Also, low interoperability is a serious threat to CT, since the need for improved standardization environment for the use of ILUs is considered an important topic in future CT (UIC 2020). 

One of the most important barrier are additional costs related to the process. It results from the obligatory transshipment process, as mentioned before. Cost-related issue is also rail access fee, differing much when analyzing all EU Member States. In addition, there is a huge disproportion between rail access fees and road access fees. Then, the differences in discounts system for intermodal trains (if applicable, because there are countries without such supporting systems) is another issue.

With cost, are also related rail and IWW infrastructure investments, bared mainly by the governance or regional authorities, eventually by the rail infrastructure management bodies. For the IWW in addition, the access fee is not directly related to the cost of maintenance of the infrastructure, since it is built to ensure many other public goals i.e., flood protection, water retention, irrigation purposes, and energy production (Figure 3.1).

An important technical barrier consists of rail infrastructure standards regarding:

  • Track gauge, which requires technologies to change the gauge with or without wagons;
  • Electrical voltage, which requires multisystem locomotives;
  • Electrification rate of the rail system, which implicates capability to use electric locomotives instead of diesel-powered ones;
  • Maximum length of a freight train, which results in the efficiency of one train form theoretical 82-84 TEU on average to 70 TEU in practice (where 630 m are the limit);
  • Maximum payload of a freight train, closely connected to the length but being a separate factor/indicator for rail operators in train planning and setting;
  • Maximum speed of a freight train, resulting in the infrastructure efficient use, especially when average speed is calculated as main factor for the competition with road trucking;
  • Advancement of ERTMS/ETCS systems in specific EU countries, unequal and differing, which results in being still incompatible and non-efficient rail system in the whole EU; and
  • Bottlenecks in AGTC and AGN transport networks, where several white spots can be observed i.e., on the Polish IWW map.

There are also other barriers for the CT development, such as:

  • Inadequacy of infrastructure and capacity of existing CT terminals;
  • Not sufficient density of CT terminals location;
  • Delays in cargo handling at CT terminals, as well as in rail traffic;
  • Hydrological limitations for IWW (insufficient water level);
  • Lack of governmental incentives or transport policy measures supporting CT implementation;
  • IT and ICT solutions being not implemented into the rail services (while in road transport the track & trace is well developed);
  • Long time is needed for the operator to organize a service, while the forwarders are often obliged to make on the spot decisions on the shape of the chain;
  • Lack of a (digital) rail booking stock, similar to the maritime freight;
  • A general delays in investment processes; and 
  • Non-coordinated investment in logistics centers unlike the CT terminals location.

In addition to the above, there are also some organizational barriers to be overcome, including:

  • Lack of education and trainings for new employers, while the existing one shows a high average age;
  • Long and difficult process of certification and staff authorization in rail and maritime transport, as well as not unitized across the whole of the EU for standard requirements of locomotive drivers;
  • National policies preventing own staff against foreign competition (e.g., in rail business); and
  • Limited willingness by customers to pay for the greening process of transport and all kind of consequences resulting from the process (cost increase, time-consuming indirect work.