Strategies for Increasing Intermodal Transport Between Eastern and Western Europe

Strategies for Increasing Intermodal Transport Between Eastern and Western Europe


J Wichser, U Weidmann, N Fries, A Nash, ETH Zurich, Institute for Transport Planning and Systems, CH


This research evaluated strategies designed to increase the share of intermodal freight transport to and from the CEEC. It considered two problems with intermodal transport, its high cost and non-competitiveness with truck transport in many markets.


An important European Union policy is to decrease the share of freight transport moving by truck in favor of alternative land transport modes (rail and waterway). The research project?s purpose was to identify strategies for increasing the share of intermodal freight transportation between Eastern and Western Europe. The project evaluated the demand for transport in this market and identified a potential candidate corridor. This corridor was used to help analyze strategies for addressing the key problems in increasing intermodal transport.
The three main problems with intermodal transport are: quality, price and coverage; more specifically, intermodal transport is often slower, less reliable and more expensive, than truck-only transport, and furthermore it is only offered in selected corridors. Addressing these problems is the key to increasing intermodal transport.
Quality is the most important factor in today?s freight transport market. There are two main ways to improve the quality of intermodal transport: consolidate management and improve the infrastructure.
Intermodal transport in Europe today is relatively disorganized; often it involves multiple parties working together on an ad-hoc basis. The best option would be a single company providing door-to-door service (similar to truck transport), but this is practically impossible for long distance intermodal transport. Therefore, to increase quality, a single responsible party must manage all transport chain partners, information flows must be improved, quality improvement strategies must be implemented, and all partners must share the same objectives.
There are several alternative organizational structures that could achieve these objectives. One common requirement is that the intermodal terminal operator be responsible for providing the pre- and post-haulage service (to increase PPH efficiency). Ideally both the origin and destination terminals would be under the control of the same operator. The terminal operator could either contract with a railroad for the main haulage or (preferably) operate its own trains (under Europe?s Open Access rules) between terminals. In cases where the origin and destination terminals are operated by different companies, these companies must develop a real working partnership.
Europe?s intermodal transport infrastructure must be improved to increase its share of the freight market. New terminals must be built and the capacity of existing terminals increased to support development of new operational strategies (e.g. liner trains or hub-and-spoke systems). In some locations new track infrastructure must be built to help freight trains travel quickly and efficiently between terminals. The main responsibility for planning and financing these infrastructure investments must be government because of their high cost, long life and impact on economic development; however, intermodal operators should strongly support these efforts.
Many of the recommendations for increasing quality will also reduce expenses. A good example is using coordinated information systems to quickly and accurately transmit information between partners. The research found that the cost of inefficient pre- and post-haulage process adds up to 37% to the cost of intermodal transport in typical markets. Two ways to reduce these costs are to better plan the PPH operation (making more efficient use of PPH trucks) and locating intermodal terminals closer to customers (or vice-versa).
The best markets for intermodal transport are large volumes of freight moving on a concentrated axis over relatively long distances (around 1000 km or more). Intermodal operators can build these markets using the cooperative strategies outlined above. Another strategy is to increase freight volumes by serving smaller markets with a multi-level service offer (which increases the number of efficient direct trains).


Association for European Transport