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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Land & marine transport projects > Integrated transport chains - Ship, train, and truck
Graphic element Integrated transport chains - Ship, train, and truck
    01-03-2002
 

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.

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A backlog of containers waiting to be loaded at quayside.
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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.

Formidable obstacles
 

The 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.

 
FLIHTT
 

The FLIHTT 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 terminals dominate.

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 ONE
 

The 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 a prototype.

 
INTEGRATION
 

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 ports.

 
Widespread impacts
 

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 of transport.

 
Formidable obstacles
Getting to grips
FLIHTT
ASAPP and ASAPP ONE
INTEGRATION
Widespread impacts
   

Key data

Research on the improvement of the interoperability and interconnectivity of freight transport is supported under the Growth Programme's 'Land transport and marine technologies' key action.

Projects

- FLIHTT - Flexible intermodal horizontal transshipment techniques (BRPR960171);

- ASAPP - Automated shuttle for augmented port performance (BRPR980614);

- ASAPP ONE - Intelligent shuttle fleet connecting a split container storage area for intermodal operation and movement (G3RD-2001-00310);

- INTEGRATION - Technology platform on the integration of sea land technologies for an efficient intermodal door to door transport (GRD2-2001-50052).

     

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