In its ongoing attempt to manage
predicted increases in freight transport, the European Commission is taking
steps to encourage the use of intermodal systems, especially containers.
Integration of the different modes within the transport chain will mean
improved flexibility, quality, and cost effectiveness and will stimulate
competition between transporters instead of between transport modes.
backlog of containers waiting to be loaded at quayside.
Road congestion is steadily increasing throughout
the European Union and is currently estimated to cost around 2% of its
GDP. A further estimated 2% is lost as a result of road accidents and
road transport-related pollution and noise. The problem is aggravated
by the fact that our roads are increasingly being used to the exclusion
of other channels such as railways and inland waterways. Projections show
that by 2005 road transport will account for 75%of all European inland
freight carriage, with the quantity of goods transported by road expected
to double by 2010 unless new arrangements are made.
development of a seamless web of integrated transport chains, linking
road, rail and waterways is a key objective of the EU's Common Transport
Policy, as outlined in the White
Paper, entitled 'European transport policy for 2010: time to decide'
The integration of truck, train, and ship transport, including on
inland waterways, faces a range of obstacles as we move toward the
optimum use of all existing infrastructures.
Support of RTD actions for the promotion of
intermodal transport (e.g. harmonization of loading units) is clearly
presented in the 27 October 1999 document (COM(99)519), entitled
'Communication from the Commisssion on the progress of the implementation
of the action programme of the Communication on Intermodality and
Intermodal freight Transport in the European Union (COM(97)243)'
The special equipment needed for the efficient
transfer of Intermodal Transport Units (ITUs) such as standard ISO
freight containers between trains, ships, and trucks requires a
very high level of investment. European ports can only justify such
expenditure when the amount of traffic they process is quite large.
This means that the vast majority of goods shipped in containers
is now being forced through a relatively small number of appropriately
equipped European ports. In some such ports, a single dockside can
be expected to process 200 vehicles an hour, translating into a
major logistical nightmare, with large numbers of trucks on small
quays causing bottlenecks and long queues, resulting in an even
less efficient use of the limited available space, trucks, and drivers.
In addition, the break-even distance for this
type of intermodal transport is at least 400 to 500 km, so the use
of containers for shorter hauls is quite simply unprofitable.
||Getting to grips
The urgent need to
improve freight transport efficiency has led to the initiation of
a number of research projects within the European Union. Participants
include transport users, research institutes, engineering organisations,
ITU handling machinery companies, and others, all working together
towards the common goal of a well-distributed, well-maintained,
efficient network for intermodal transport via ITUs. The following
are just a few examples.
project has carried out a detailed economic analysis, comparing
the investment and operating costs of proposed intermodal systems
against those of conventional transport systems, confirming their
viability in terms of cost effectiveness, and technically feasibility.
FLIHTT focused on two principle issues: how to make trans-shipment
techniques as economical and efficient as those in road-road distribution
centres through the development of horizontal trans-shipment techniques;
and how to integrate horizontal trans-shipment techniques within
an intermodal transport system in which vertical trans-shipment
Important innovations have been proposed in
relation to rail wagons, including two families of flat and tube-shaped
carriages suited to operating with standard and non-standard units.
The flat wagons incorporate specific guides and sliding systems
while the tube-shaped wagons use specific sheltering structures.
Secondly, new loading and unloading equipment has been developed
and is being used in the TRAI 2000 project in Italy.
||ASAPP and ASAPP
high level of activity in ports, including complex organisational
and logistical processes and movements, combined with lack of space,
can often lead to chaotic and even dangerous scenes. The ASAPP
project and the new complementary initiative ASAPP
ONE , running until August 2003, aim to drastically reduce loading
and unloading times of ships in ports as well as the evacuation
of containers from ports to inland transportation networks. Partners
have established the definition of a dedicated link wherein hinterland
depots would receive freight from road or rail vehicles and then
transfer it via an automated shuttle to seaport depots and then
to ship loading berths, and vice versa. According to Umberto Verza,
ASAPP ONE Scientific Coordinator, highly manoeuvrable, electrically
powered, computer-controlled shuttles, each transporting up to six
containers, would run either individually or in convoys on dedicated
railway lines or on special roads. The ASAPP ONE project is aimed
specifically at tackling the challenging new configuration of the
proposed shuttles and at creating an efficient system for getting
the right containers to the right location at the right time.
Together, the ASAPP and ASAPP ONE projects are
creating a new infrastructure that will allow more space for crane
movements, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and lorries within the
port environment. A computerised traffic control system, including
a crossing control system, will manage fleets of these shuttles,
ensuring the safe and orderly transfer of 200 containers per hour
(4 cranes per ship). Such a system could eliminate upwards of 2000
trucks a day from urban areas in the vicinity of major ports, along
with the associated congestion at quaysides, and would mean a much
faster and more constant throughput to ships.
"The actual modifications at quaysides
will be quite limited," says Verza. "and so investment
costs will be low. Also, less space would be needed at the port,
so smaller quays will be in a better position to accept freight.
This, in turn, will increase the number of available sea and inland
waterway routes, helping to ease the pressure on roadways."
Partners say the overall costs of transport would be decreased if
this system were implemented, lowering the break-even distance for
intermodal transport to around 200 km. New information technologies
would also lead to a higher quality of service for freight industry
customers, allowing improved tracking and tracing of goods in transport.
The ASAPP ONE project, comprising a consortium of industrial partners,
SMEs, engineering firms, and research institutes, is currently developing
Most recently, EU
funding has been approved for a new Technology Platform on efficient
interoperability and transshipment called INTEGRATION, with the
aim of improving the integration and validation of critical technologies
already developed in a single approach from ship to shore and in
Once again then,
coordinated European research efforts will provide multiple benefits
to both businesses and ordinary citizens. As a result of the effective
integration and utilisation of improved intermodal transport systems,
people in urban areas will benefit from a reduction in traffic while
improved energy efficiency will mean lower pollution levels. Added
flexibility and the introduction of new information systems will
reduce timescales and provide for a higher standard of transport
services, while lower costs will mean significantly lower charges
to transport customers. All of this is well in line with the Commission's
larger objectives of establishing and promoting a more efficient,
reliable and sustainable transport system integrating all modes
Research on the improvement of the interoperability
and interconnectivity of freight transport is supported under
the Growth Programme's 'Land transport and marine technologies'
- FLIHTT - Flexible intermodal
horizontal transshipment techniques (BRPR960171);
- ASAPP - Automated shuttle for augmented port
- ASAPP ONE - Intelligent shuttle fleet connecting
a split container storage area for intermodal operation and movement
- INTEGRATION - Technology platform on the integration
of sea land technologies for an efficient intermodal door to door