Combined transport

The following definitions are given by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe: Combined transport is intermodal transport where the major part of the European journey is by rail, inland waterways or sea and any initial and/or final legs carried out by road are as short as possible.

The Railway Companies offer two types of intermodal transport :

  • Accompanied transport, also known as "rolling road".
  • Unaccompanied transport, changing from one mode of transport to another using a purpose-built terminal (road, maritime, waterway, rail, air).

Intermodal transport: The movement of goods in one and the same loading unit or road vehicle, which uses successively two or more modes of transport without handling the goods themselves in changing modes. By extension, the term intermodality has been used to describe a system of transport whereby two or more modes of transport are used to transport the same loading unit or truck in an integrated manner, without loading or unloading, in a door to door transport chain.

For more information, please visit the UIC Terminology section or the UNECE website.

Techniques

RAIL-ROAD

Lorry

Lorries make it possible to provide a door-to-door service, as they cover the short distances separating factories and terminals. They enable the major advantages of road haulage to be tapped, i.e. a network that reaches further and is denser.

Container

Containers lead to better logistical management of the areas used for loading and unloading goods, since their rigid structure enables up to six of them to be stacked in one pile. Container lengths have been standardised at between 20 and 53 feet.

Swap body

Swap bodies are standardised loading units equally suitable for carriage on road vehicles or railway wagons. As they can be used in a broad range of situations, are simple in design and inexpensive, this form of conveyance has been highly successful and is currently one of the most widely used transport systems on the market.

Semi-trailer

While semi-trailers are more costly and heavier, their advantage is that they can be coupled directly to a tractor and do not require a road chassis, unlike containers and swap bodies.

Terminal

Terminals are interchange hubs between rail and road traffic. They are fitted with all the equipment required to handle and tranship loading units from one transport mode to the next in a rapid and efficient manner: gantries and mobile cranes, modern computer systems integrating tracks, storage areas, transhipment areas and connections to roads and motorways.

Wagon

There are a plethora of different wagons available for combined transport purposes. Those most commonly used for rail-road combined transport are flat wagons, fitted with scotching systems for swap bodies and containers, as well as base plates for swap bodies. Wagons used to carry semi-trailers have very low floors and recesses to accommodate the wheels.

Rolling road

The rolling road concept is the only option available to shippers and freight forwarders to run combined transport services without committing to specific investment. Lorries are carried on purpose-built low-floor wagons, while drivers travel in seated accommodation or couchettes. Transhipment between road and rail takes place at terminals, using mobile ramps, with the lorries subject to specific conditions resulting from the category and clearance gauge of the line worked. Rolling road services are limited to set routes. Owing to the particular requirements associated with the purpose-built wagons used, there are no plans to introduce this option for wagonload traffic.


RAIL-MARITIME

Definitions

There are two main types of sea shipping:

Short-sea: This is transport by sea over short distances, for example between Great Britain and the continental ports of the English Channel and the North Sea.

Deep-sea: This is transport by sea over long distances, sometimes between continents, for example between Asia and Europe.

Ship

Ships carry transport units by sea between different ports. They can vary considerably in size depending on the distance to be covered and the volumes to be transported. Most of the time they sail on set routes arranged by the shipping companies and shippers. In the case of deep sea shipping, they only carry "sea containers", complying with the technical features stipulated in the ISO standards in force. In the case of short sea shipping, some companies also accept transport units such as swap bodies (with or without road chassis) and semi-trailers (accompanied or not).

Container

Containers lead to better logistical management of the areas used for loading and unloading goods, since their rigid structure enables them to be stacked up to three high. Container lengths have been standardised at 20 and 40 feet, making them the ideal transport unit for sea shipping.

Wagon

The wagons used for rail-sea combined transport are flat wagons, fitted with scotching systems for containers.

Port Terminal

Port terminals are, naturally enough, located in sea ports. Their infrastructure generally enables them to handle both road-sea traffic and rail-sea traffic. They have one or more quays where ships can moor, with railway tracks running parallel to the quay so that loading units can be transferred directly from ships to wagons and vice versa.


RAIL-WATERWAY

Definition

Rail-barge transport is very similar in terms of the way it is managed to rail-sea transport. However it is different from the latter in terms of the market segments it serves. Unlike sea shipping, transport by inland waterway is a way of linking industrial centres which have a sea and/or waterway port, on a single land mass. Where such inland waterway terminals are connected to the railways, volumes carried in intermodal rail operating programmes can also be carried by inland waterway and thereby collected from and distributed to the main industrial centres in Europe.

Barge

Barges are shallow-draught boats equipped with a platform on which intermodal transport units (containers and swap bodies) can be carried.

Container

Containers lead to better logistical management of the areas used for loading and unloading goods, since their rigid structure enables them to be stacked up to three high. Container lengths have been standardised at 20 and 40 feet, making them the ideal transport unit for sea shipping.

Swap bodie

Swap bodies are standardised loading units equally suitable for carriage on road vehicles and on railway wagons. As they can be used in a broad range of situations, are simple in design and reasonably priced, this form of conveyance has been highly successful and is currently one of the most widely used transport systems on the market. Swap bodies cannot be used in combined rail-sea transport but they are sometimes used in transport by inland waterway.

Wagon

The wagons most commonly used for rail-waterways combined transport are flat wagons, fitted with scotching systems for swap bodies and containers, as well as base plates for swap bodies. Wagons used to carry semi-trailers have very low floors and recesses to accommodate the wheels.

Inland waterway terminal

Inland waterway terminals are located at the heart of inland ports, the latter are interlinked by waterways such as rivers and canals. Their infrastructure generally enables them to handle both rail-road traffic and rail-barge traffic, for that reason they are often called "trimodal terminals". They have one or more quays where barges can moor, with railway tracks running parallel to the quay so that transport units can be transferred directly from the barges to wagons and vice versa.


RAIL-AIR

Because freight forwarding is concentrated among international transport integrators and logistics firms, airports are increasingly setting up Cargo Centres as multimodal hubs.

The spread of cabotage in the wake of rapid expansion of air cargo traffic cannot be absorbed by road transport alone and rail transport offers an effective alternative to road congestion, especially between airport Cargo Centres and distribution platforms.

Benefits of the Combined Transport

Combined Transport presents a range of benefits. It contributes towards a better quality of life and proposes a seamless transport solution in order to improve the productivity of the entire chain.
The main benefits of combined transport can be summarised as follows:

  • Friendly towards the environment: on routes where volumes can be bundled and distance is appropriate, combined transport provides substantial energy gains and lower CO2 emissions
  • Friendly towards society: reduces accidents, road congestion and dependency on energy reserves
  • It allows for a better use of existing capacity
  • It combines the flexibility of road with the economies of rail on long journeys for large volumes
  • It is well integrated in the logistics chain
  • It is safe and secure: reduce risk for goods during the transport journey

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