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Fast Transhipment Equipment and Novel Methods for Rail Cargo in Europe

The project FastRCargo aims at developing the fastest transhipment system with the potential of a significant impact on rail innovations for 2010 and beyond. The system tranships standardised intermodal transport units between standardised rail wagons and trucks below active power lines.

Tags: Multimodal


Fast and adequate rail transhipment of standardised intermodal transport units (sITU) remains one of the highest ranked challenges of rail research. A cost-efficient solution for this topic is key for further enhancements towards sustainable competitiveness of intermodality against mono-modal road transport.


The project FastRCargo aims at developing a new transhipment system for fast loading and unloading of standardised intermodal transport units (sITU, consisting of ISO containers and swap bodies) between rail and road vehicles, and terminal or support vehicle structures. Interoperability and inter-connectivity between rail and road transport for cross-operation is perfectly supported by the fact that road standardised production means will be seamlessly integrated into rail operation without any modification, without excessive operating time and for reasonable friction costs. Intermodal liner networks will become reality with the system proposed.

The main objectives are:

  • to develop an automatic transhipment system, consisting of a set of equipment featuring a high degree of flexibility, scalability, dependability and ease of integration
  • to develop effective rail transport and service concepts, contributing to a sustainable alternative to road haulage
  • to develop further components needed in order to complement the equipment to a versatile intermodal node as part of a broader logistic and transport system
  • to verify the sustainability of the new rail transport service concepts, the complementary systems and the new transhipment equipment within a commercially oriented user group.

Description of work

FastRCargo is divided into nine work packages.

WP0: The project management activity covers all the work necessary to provide direction and administrative support to the project.

WP1: This activity aims to support the development-related work packages in setting guidelines for design, realisation and evaluation.

WP2: This aims to research rail-specific aspects for integrating the new fast transhipment system into valid rail services of the future.

WP3: The main objective is to build the required system components according to the modularity concept and integration framework developed in WP1.

WP4: The loading/unloading process in the context of FastRCargo has to be considered as a highly safety-critical process. This work package aims at developing a set of reliable integrated packages for sensing.

WP5: The two main objectives of this work package include (1) development of an appropriate software model and coherent software architecture for control purposes, and (2) to define appropriate use scenarios and ‘guidelines’ for the operational phase.

WP6: It aims to integrate the hardware and software sub-systems developed in other work packages into one system.

WP7: This work package mainly builds the demonstrator and evaluates its further potential.

WP8: Dissemination of project information will start early in the project to ensure broad awareness.


By focusing on innovation and novelty for intermodality and interoperability, the project contributes to an increase of image, public acceptance and share of mind for rail transport and its actors. This will lead to a higher media presence and societal acceptance of transport and rail transport in particular. The project supports policy-makers with sustainable supplement for intermodal transport in its present form and thus a valid alternative, which is:

  • in support of existing intermodal networks and their developments
  • in support of local, regional and industry-specific long-term environmental objectives
  • in support of high yield investments.

Potential impact:

With the use of technologies developed within the project, novel transport methods will become a strategic option, especially for new entries and innovative operators. When applying new paradigms for rail operation as well, various new alternatives for rail transport production methods become feasible for realisation and reinforcing competitiveness of intermodal rail cargo vs. truck transport. For example:

  • shifting the balance between modes of transport
  • removal of bottlenecks
  • fast execution of the loading operation and by the fact that trains can be manipulated while waiting on bypass tracks with active electrical power lines.