Piggyback transport, also known as "accompanied combined transport", consists of loading complete freight trucks like tractors and trailers onto a train. It is a form of combined transport currently used mainly for the passage of natural obstacles, as is the case for the Channel Tunnel Shuttle, but more ambitious long-distance projects also aim to reduce pollution and relieve congestion on motorways. Piggyback transport is widespread in Europe, particularly for long distances between northern Germany and southern Italy, as well as in Switzerland.
In France, the public authorities are seeking to encourage the development of piggyback transport. Two rail motorways currently exist: the Alpine Rolling Highway and the Lorry-Rail between Perpignan and Luxembourg, with a new line under study between Calais and Leipzig. Piggyback transport has considerable ecological advantages, especially on major roads and over long distances. It avoids fuel consumption by trucks, replacing it with combined electricity consumption, which generates an energy saving of around 47% and a significant reduction in carbon dioxide and pollutant emissions (90% of emissions avoided). The disadvantage of piggyback transport is that basic investments are high, at several hundred million euros.
However, the margin of progress for railways on the road remains very high in France. Road transport continues to grow. In 2012, piggyback transport thus represented only 7.5 billion tonne-km, compared to 13 billion tonne-km in 2000. Road transport therefore continues to represent 83% of freight transport in France. Piggyback transport suffers from a lack of infrastructure and uniform regulations. It also does not currently allow for real-time monitoring of goods and their transport under controlled temperature conditions. Nevertheless, a gradual evolution is taking place, with a 6.1% increase in rail freight in 2015 compared to 2014. However, the share of national transport in total rail freight activity has remained below 65% since 2013. International transport continues to grow in 2015 with +3.4% growth.
However, the French piggyback transport market is changing significantly. The market leaders are currently Novatrans, Naviland Cargo, Cargo Beamer and TAB. Several opportunities also exist for the sector's stakeholders, including the increase in road transport costs, the introduction of the ecotax, the deployment of GS1 standards and the increasing adoption of international traceability identifiers in all sectors of activity.