The list of opportunities for CT is long. These include, for example, trends such as digitalization that could improve combined transport by creating new assets for business. 

In the list of opportunities, an extremely important aspect is the political will in the EU, as well as in the BSR and on national level to increase the use of sustainable modes of transport. The Green Deal states that “Multimodal transport needs a strong boost. This will increase the efficiency of the transport system. As a matter of priority, a substantial part of the 75% of inland freight carried today by road should shift onto rail and inland waterways…” (European Commission 2019). The Commission’s “Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy” together with an Action Plan of 82 initiatives will guide their work for the next four years. The concrete milestones include, for instance, that by 2030 automated mobility will be deployed at large scale and zero-emission marine vessels will be market-ready. By 2050, rail freight traffic will double and there will be a fully operational, multimodal TEN-T for sustainable and smart transport with high-speed connectivity measures to manage better, and to increase the capacity of railways and inland waterways. To make this vision a reality, the Commission has committed to reinforcing efforts and investments to complete the TEN-T by 2030 and support the sector through increased investments, both public and private, in the modernization of fleets in all modes (European Commission, 2020). This political backbone will help to boost sustainable CT also in the national level, with the help of governments’ climate policies, carbon neutrality targets and national transport system plans. National measures to support CT, such as funding programs, subsidies, and tax allowances, are therefore opportunities for CT. Boosting CT in the BSR requires transnational approach in national planning too. 

Sustainability of CT can also be used as a selling point: CT can improve the image of the transport industry and can be used as a tool for positive marketing, as green logistics is currently becoming more and more important to clients (ERFA KV, 2020). According to 2020 Report on Combined Transport in Europe, sustainability seems to be highly important issue for the various players in CT (UIC, 2020).

The improved regulatory framework is needed to fulfil the political will. The stronger support for the BSR specifics regarding combined transport is needed both in the European and national legislation. The support for standardization and minimization of the bureaucratic burden related to CT processes is important (UIC, 2020). 

Taking advantage of the potential of digital technologies and solutions has a great impact on the whole logistic industry. One of the biggest opportunities for CT is the increased digitalization and automation of transport and logistics. Examples for new developments are tracking and tracing, the increasing number of booking platforms for a better price comparison and more transparency, and the use of big data to enable forecasts of capacity planning and environmental influences in the supply chain (ERFA KV, 2020). It is also possible to implement the internet of things into the CT chain, where specific transport means, infrastructure elements and the cargo unit communicate to each other towards improving the chain efficiency.

In addition to improving processes through digitalization, the capacity of CT can be increased by building new terminals or expanding the capacities of existing terminals (UIC 2020). New innovative solutions and improved processes through digitalization, such as truck and train gates, allow for a fast-digital collection of information on the loading units when entering or leaving the terminal. The digitalization has also led to an increasing number of automated CT terminals (ERFA KV 2020). 

In the light of the considerable gap particularly between road and rail transport in terms of cargo volumes, the question arises how the modal split can be shifted towards more sustainable modes of transport in the CT chain within the BSR. Having in mind that a considerable share of road transport is realized in semi-trailers, economically viable innovative vertical, and horizontal handling technologies could potentially unlock the potential of combined transport in the BSR (SGKV & UIRR, 2020). To achieve a shift of freight traffic volumes off the road to rail or waterways, there is a great potential in the use of innovative handling technologies for non-craneable loading units which cannot be handled with conventional equipment (ERFA KV, 2020).

The improved standardization and interoperability create opportunities for CT in the BSR as well. CT profits from a continuing development of an increasing use of containers. The future development of transport connections and links in the BSR, for instance the enhanced use of inland waterways, can increase CT in the region. 

As stated earlier, the BSR is traditionally an area with a long tradition of pure road transport. Introducing new transport opportunities can contribute to new markets and business models that include CT too.

And the biggest chance for the CT development should be seen in the economy of scale, when the commonplace of cargo unit shipment to the CT chains will ensure sufficient transportation work and therefore incomes to cover not only operational costs, but also giving some funds for the further development of improved services and additional capacity building investment.