Freight Transport and Logistics Services


02 Aug 2017 04 Sep 2017

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Intermodal (rail) freight transport market assessment

Coursework requirement

Intermodal solutions are regularly promoted as a key way in which modal shift from road to rail can be achieved. As discussed in the class in Week 3, there is a range of different intermodal types used for rail movements, the key ones being ISO containers, swap bodies, piggyback and rolling road.

You are required to conduct a strategic assessment of the current and future role of each of these types of intermodal operation within the European Union. This assessment should focus on intermodal freight transport which involves the use of rail and must include:


Intermodal transport focus on freight system as a regular mode to promoted as a key way in which modal shift from road or rail can be achieved. There are four different intermodal types used for rail movements, the main ones being ISO containers, swap bodies, piggyback and rolling road. This report will be summarised of the general purpose of intermodal transport and the key characteristics for each intermodal type mentioned above. Second will be highlighting their relative strengths and weaknesses and identifying the typical markets for intermodal transport. Third, will be given a brief overview of the existing intermodal market in the European Union. Then, will create action plan containing for the short-term and long-term to develop European intermodal transport activity. Finally, some conclusions.


The simple concept of Intermodal transport the goods are usually located in a container that is created to store various products and be moved with no effort from one point to another, (S. Brian, 2016, p.219). Intermodal transport on other hand refers to liking the two appropriate modes in conjunction to formulate an incorporate transport chain, designed to achieving operationally efficient, cost-effective and delivery of goods in an environmentally sustainable method from their point of origin to their ending, (D. Lowe, 2006, p.1). The loading unit, reliant on the method in used, may be a swap body, container, complete road vehicle or a separated articulated semi-trailer. The objective of these modes here is to transferred from one mode to another is an important aspect of the intermodal transportation, (D. Lowe, 2006, p.21). The purpose of transportation is to moving goods for short, medium or long distances in large quantities by road, rail and collecting or distribute, (Arnold, P., Pierre et al, 2004, pp.255-270).


Following those definitions of intermodal transport, the characteristic of the intermodal transport should be cited. First, all intermodal transport is not only a mode of transport, like trucks or railways are, but is an idea for establishing the logistics chain. As bundling is an important component of generating competent and effective transport chains, the character of intermodal transport permit this feature, (Joseph S. Szyliowicz et al, 2016, p.22)

The intermodal transport method of transportation of goods and incorporated into standardised loadings, such as semi-trailers, ISO containers and/ or swap-bodies, between their dispatchers they are collected and receivers where they are delivered, which are situated on both end of a given freight transport access to the market. The dispatchers and receivers are typically large or small size but "huddled" logistics centres, warehouses freight terminal and or manufacture plants. The arrangement combines at minimum two transport modes, rail and road in this situation- whose vehicle fitting at the intermodal road and rail terminal, where they swap loading units, using transhipment services and equipment according to the process. The goods receivers can be in the warehouse and could be shippers or should stay for short time at the intermodal terminals, i.e. to be unloading from the incoming trucks and loading onto the outgoing characteristics of intermodal freight transport or Long Intermodal Freight Trains at the receive side, and vice versa, at the shipper side, (J., Milan., 2008).

The road transport mode is the complement and challenging the alternative delivery loading units' door-to-door' principally by trucks, in most cases, without the middle transhipment and loading. Nevertheless, in some aspects, loading at depots along the route, as well as transfer the loading units by different vehicles, which suggests both their unloading and loading, can also take place, (J., Milan., 2008).

  1. ISO containers



  • It is strong and resilient to carriers all heavy, tall or hard to load material such as vehicle, trucks, trains, etc.
  • out of railway container transport
  1. Swap bodies



  • It fit on the road train, and contribute a similar space as a conventional road train.
  • Fits on a semi-trailer chassis.
  • Offers the same interior space as a conventional semi-trailer used.
  • Use for international transport in Europe.
  • Short transposition over the road and port operation.
  • Weak support legs.

Source: Adapted from: (International Transport Forum, 2009, p.121)

  1. Piggyback



  • Strong to transport vehicle, trailers and containers every way.
  • Operation in diverse type of services including groupage, packing and track.
  • Dependent with another trailer to be lifted on to a rail flatcars.
  • Can transportation container with high volume, example larger ISO container, etc.
  1. Rolling road



  • Ease and rapidly to loading and unloading the goods.
  • Investment requires for the terminals.
  • Geographical restriction access.
  • The condition of different regions could not be the similar and not comparable.

In Europe, intermodal transport has grown significantly; typically, with such operation as the French and German road-rail systems, which transportation ISO containers, swap bodies, piggyback and use Rolling road between ports and inland destination, (D. Lowe, 2006, p.12).

The intermodal transport mode is efficient to use the unit-load system and proficient of transfer between road, rail and other transport modes, and which permits for the collection of loads by delivery without trans-shipment or repacking of the consignment itself. The normal loading unit take the form of any road-going semi-trailers conforming to standard dimension and designed to be piggybacked aboard rail waggons, or more habitually, swap bodies and shipping containers build to international ISO standards which are completely transposable between a diversity of road vehicle combinations, sea-going ships, rail waggons and river and canal barges. In all situations, the load remains complete and secure within the loading unit which is lifted or transferred by exclusive equipment into the hold of a ship, a canal barge, rail wagon and then back to a road vehicle at the end of the trunk-haul leg of the journey (D. Lowe, 2006, p.3).

Such intermodal system offers greater flexibility for the client, who may be either the consignor or the beneficiary, by permitting the goods to be loaded or unloaded at customer premises in a conventional manner without changing the present practices applied to national or international. It also promises to see the freight securely packed and wrapped in an intermodal loading unit, the customer knows that it will not be bothered again until it delivers the goods its final destination it is the responsibility of a groupage load, (D. Lowe, 2006, p.3).

The main benefits of unit-load intermodal transport are:

  • Long journeys the cost is lower.
  • In certain circumstances delivery time is fast, in particular, cases require to be assesse as individually process.
  • A diminution in road congestion, a main advantageous factor in these modern time.
  • Some dangerous products are safer for the transit.
  1. Overview of the existing Intermodal transport market in the European Union

In general, the new intermodal operator are found in the northern part of Europe and particular in the lager market for hinterland transport of maritime containers related to the ports of Hamburg, Bremerhaven, Rotterdan and Antwerp. The ports themselves have also demonstrated their interest in hinterland transport by rail. In the case of Germany, for instance, the port operator HHLA has bought 50 per cent of transfracht from DB. These initiatives all aim at 'cherry-picking' EIT: they do not capture new market shares from road transport, but rathe existing intermodal services. P. (9)

TitleJ. W. Konings (2008) "The Future of Intermodal Freight Transport: Operations, Design and Policy", Transport Economics, Management and Policy Series, Editors-Hugo Priemus, Peter Nijkamp, Publisher-Edward Elgar Publishing, p. (9), 360 pages, [Online],, [Accessed 15/03/17]

Because of growing freight traffic and an increasing imbalance in the use of the various transport modes and infrastructure, the transport system in the European Union is showing signs of inefficiency from a socio-economic point of view. Increasingly, freight transport appears as a source of environmental and social costs to its citizens.

Intermodal freight transport provides transport for consolidated loads such as containers, swap-bodies and semi trailers by combining at least two modes (European Commisson, 2002). In Europe, intermodal freight transport has frequently been seen as a potentially strong competitor to road transportation and to be environmentally friendlier in many contexts.1 Its development to date, however, has not confirmed such expectations. For example, during 1990-1999, European intermodal freight transport grew steadily from an annual volume of about 119 to about 250 billion t-km2 with an increase in its market share volumes from about 5%-9%.3 This was mainly due to enhancement of operations in Trans-European corridors of 900-1000 km that carried about 10% of the tonnage. (J. Milan, 2007)

Janic, M., 2007. Modelling the full costs of an intermodal and road freight transport network. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 12(1), pp.33-44

  1. Overview of the existing Intermodal transport market in the European Union

2. A concise overview of the existing intermodal market in the European Union, including discussion of the key statistics relating to trends in activity. You must ensure that you focus on the most important information (20% of marks)

intermodal transport market in the European Union, discussion of the key statistics relating to trends in activity.

overview of the existing intermodal market in the European Union discussion of the key statistics relating to trends in activity the most important information

Discussion of the key statistics relating to intermodal transport market activity in the European Union

Development European Intermodal activity in 5 years and more than 5 years the opportunities and barriers relating to its implementation 

Original action plan containing for 5 years and more than 5 years to develop European intermodal transport activity and assess the opportunities and barriers

3. An original action plan containing specific actions for the short-term (i.e. within 5 years) and long-term (i.e. more than 5 years) to develop European intermodal activity.

For each action, you must justify the reason for its inclusion in the plan and assess the opportunities and barriers relating to its implementation.

In developing the action plan, you should prioritise actions so as to gain maximum benefit in each time period (40% of marks)

European intermodal activity with ISO containers, swap bodies, piggyback and Rolling road development in 5 years and more than 5 years' plan opportunities and barriers


The development of intermodal freight is regarded as a key way in which rail can achieve a greater share of the freight transport market, but the limitations of official datasets make it difficult to develop a strong appreciation of the characteristics of existing intermodal flows


Arnold, P., Peeters, D. and Thomas, I., 2004. Modelling a rail/road intermodal transportation system. Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, 40(3), pp.255-270.

David L. (2006), "Intermodal Freight Transport", Publisher-Routledge, p.1,304 pages, [Online],, [Accessed,10/03/17].

European Conference of Ministers of Transport (1998) "Report on the Current State of Combined Transport in Europe", Source OECD.: Transport, Publisher-OECD Publishing, p. (34), 168 pages, [Online],, [Accessed, 15/03/17]

International Transport Forum (2009) "Intermodal Transport National Peer Review: Turkey: National Peer Review: Turkey", Publisher-OECD Publishing, p.121, 196 pages, [Online],, [Accessed,14/03/17].

Joseph S. S., Luca Z., Genserik L.L. R., Dawna L. R., (2016), "Multimodal Transport Security: Frameworks and Policy Applications in Freight and Passenger Transport", Publisher-Edward Elgar Publishing, (p.22), 328 pages, [Online],, [Accessed, 13/03/17].

Janic, M.., (2008) "An assessment of the performance of the European long intermodal freight trains (LIFTS). Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 42(10), pp.1326-1339. Slack, B., (2016), "Intermodal transportation", Sustainable Railway Futures: Issues and Challenges, Routledge, New York, pp.219-231.


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