Greetings from the Southern Hemisphere,
Winter is now approaching here. In Auckland, the temperatures are still quite mild with daytime highs of around 16°C but it is getting cooler overnight – 8°C or so. Today it is also expected to rain.
Preparations for HVTT16 in Qingdao are progressing well. We have received over 80 extended abstracts and authors are now finalising their full papers. Quite a few full papers have already been submitted.
As you will be aware, the Covid-19 situation has resulted in HVTT16 being the first ever of our symposia to be offered in a hybrid form with both in-person and on-line attendance options. This form of conference may well be the way of the future. Although there are obvious benefits from in-person attendance that cannot be fully realised through on-line participation, on-line participation offers a significantly lower cost alternative which makes the symposium accessible to a much larger potential audience. We hope to have the largest HVTT attendance ever. Please visit the conference website at www.hvtt16.com.cn/en/ for more details and updates.
In New Zealand, the government has recently presented its annual budget. One of the major drivers of the budget is promoting economic recovery from the impacts of Covid-19 and this included significant investments in infrastructure. A notable feature of this infrastructure investment was a significant injection of funds into the railways. One of the arguments for this investment, as presented in the budget documents, is that it will keep trucks off the road and thus reduce emissions. However, there does not appear to have been any analysis of the extent to which freight that is currently moved by road could be transferred to rail. Rail freight competes with road freight on price and service (delivery times, reliability, cargo damage etc.).
Although there is a public perception that vast quantities of freight are travelling up and down the country by truck, in fact, most road freight movements in New Zealand occur within a region or between adjacent regions and involve travel distances of less than 200km. Short distance rail freight movements like this can be viable if there is a rail siding at one or both ends of the trip, but if a truck trip is required to bring the freight to the rail connection and another truck trip is required to take the freight from the rail terminus to the end user, the costs, time and emissions involved in the freight transfers eliminate any benefits.
Both road and rail are important parts of our freight transport system and I think that we need to aim to utilise them both in a way that optimises the system rather than favouring one or the other.
I hope that you are all keeping well in these difficult times.
John de Pont
Programme Chair, HVTT16