Differences between road and rail transport

The industry on the mainland shares that road and rail transport tend to meet at some point because they are land-based, but in Spain According to the latest studies, in recent years there has been an increase in clear predominance of road transport over rail transport.

Rail transport has always been more successful when it comes to transporting people, but when it comes to transporting goods, the trend is shifting to road transport.

Road transport is considered the predominant form of freight transport due to its advantages over rail transport.

Characteristics of inland freight transport by rail Advantages

Rail transport allows a very high volume of goods to be transported when the route is very long, i.e. the costs of each operation are reduced and these fixed costs are distributed among a larger volume of goods.

It allows the transport of a wide range of goods on the same route, resulting in a lower incidence of accidents, since the trains have numerous safety measures. They also produce low pollution and avoid traffic congestion problems that do occur on highways and offer the alternative of intermodal coordination with other means of transportation.


This depends on the infrastructure in place, as it does not reach all locations. This greatly limits the capacity of the service that can be offered at any given time and in any given situation, requiring road transport as a complement in order to reach towns where rail transport does not reach.

There is a limitation when it comes to international rail transport, since the track gauge in Spain is different from that of the rest of Europe, so it is necessary to transfer when the destination is Europe.

Access to the final destination of the goods, such as warehouses or other delivery points, is not possible. In these cases, road transport support is still needed to complete the journey.

The costs of having to transship goods are quite high, so, in general terms, the cost per operation is higher.

In reality, land transport by rail is a means of transport that will always or almost always require the support of road transport.

Characteristics of land transport of goods by road Advantages

The cost of this means of transport is one of the most economical, since it is one of the most flexible when transporting any type of goods, including dangerous goods, complying with the requirements and documentation required by law.

It is the most direct form of transportation, precisely because of the enormous road infrastructure that exists, since you can reach any point in the country, nationally and even internationally.

It is the most recommended way to make groupage and share loads with other companies so that the trip is more economical than hiring a full load, but in the case of doing so, the trip would be exclusive for the client.


As one of the most used modes of transport, the accident rate is higher than in other modes.

There may be problems of traffic congestion, which slows down delivery times, although with the modernization of routing systems, real-time alternatives can be sought to avoid these unforeseen events. to avoid these unforeseen events.

It is one of the most polluting means of transport, but a solution is being sought with eco-friendly measures for efficient and environmentally friendly driving for greater driver comfort and a positive effect on sustainable business.

The volume of cargo that fits on a truck is smaller than what a train can hold.

The European panorama and the new challenges for land freight transport in Spain

Undoubtedly, in Spain we still have some unresolved issues to resolve in land freight transport.

According to statistical data from recent years, in the rest of Europe, rail freight accounts for 15% to 18% of total land transport. Factors such as the extensive rail infrastructure network are probably one of the main arguments for understanding this figure.

The important thing is that we must try to take advantage of the synergies that can be found between both transports and even intermodality, constituting, precisely for this reason, a good option to cover large stages of the journey that then end with road transport to the final destination.


The road transport industry in the Iberian Peninsula


In the freight transport industry on the Iberian peninsula, road and rail transport are often found somewhere in between because they are both terrestrial means. However, in Spain, according to the most recent studies, there is a clear predominance of road transport in recent years.

Road transport is considered to be predominant in freight transport because of its advantages over rail transport. Among the characteristics of inland rail freight transport are important advantages, such as the ability to carry large volumes of freight and to reduce the costs of each operation. Fixed costs are spread over a larger volume of goods, allowing more competitive prices to be offered for long-distance shipments.

However, rail transport is limited in terms of infrastructure and only reaches certain destinations, so road transport support is often required to cover journeys not covered by the rail network. Road transport, on the other hand, is more economical, flexible and direct, reaching any point of the country and allowing for the sharing of loads with other companies.

However, road transport also has disadvantages, such as higher accident rates compared to other modes of transport and higher levels of pollution.

In Spain, it is important to capitalise on the synergies between road and rail transport, as well as to use intermodality to cover long distances before switching to road transport for the final destination. In this way, the advantages of both modes of transport can be exploited and their limitations minimized.

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Técnica Superior en Diseño y Edición de Publicaciones Impresas y Multimedia - Artes Gráficas por IES Virgen de la Paloma. Gestor de tráfico en Transvolando.

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