Intermodal Freight Transport

Chapter 7: Rail-Freight Operations


Mm Gudrun Winner-Athens, Managing Director of German forwarding company Winner Spedition, a Board Member of intermodal operator Kombiverkehr, and a well-known and respected figure in European intermodal circles, talking in 2003 about an intermodal vision for the future which was reported in the Swiss published International Transport Journal, expressed very clearly the advantages and disadvantage of trains in a manner that the writer cannot do better than record here. She said:

The railways have three intrinsic advantages. Firstly, they are very competitive with large uniform loads over long distances, secondly they can reach a high speed and thirdly the railway system is planable and reliable. However, this threefold advantage is seldom realised in practice.

She pointed out that even in its core market, that is long haul, the railways only have a market share of about 5 per cent. The average length of international routes served by private European goods train operators is 800 850 kilometres. Two-thirds of this total is generated on transalpine routes, and not because of the efficiency of the rail-based services, but because of extraneous factors (i.e. topography, and fiscal and regulatory measures in Switzerland and Austria, etc.). Furthermore, she went on to explain that intermodal trains are not particularly fast. Even in the case of premium quality block trains or shuttles, mean speeds, including halts en route, are only 45 55 kilometres per hour (kph) and that is without including the time between the handover of the load units at the point of departure to...


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