In the run-up to "transport logistic 2011" in Munich, Privatbahn Magazin has already compared concepts of innovative transhipment technology for combined cargo.
Classic terminals in combined cargo for transhipment between train and heavy goods vehicles with crane bridges or reach stackers require high levels of investment in infrastructure. A great deal of space is needed for storing the heavy goods vehicles, containers and swap bodies. The classic handling of containers, swap bodies and in particular lorry trailers needs a large number of personnel. The loading and unloading of a complete combined cargo train often takes several hours. One problem of combined cargo is the transhipment of conventional lorry semitrailers on railway wagons. However, this is where the largest potential lies. Those who wish to shift from road to rail in freight transport have to look for technical solutions in this area that enable fast and inexpensive transhipment. PriMa presents the advantages and disadvantages of five systems.
InnovaTrain AG, located in Bern in Switzerland, was founded in 2010 as a competence centre for intermodal train concepts and transhipment systems. For its cargo transit trains, the company took on the former Cargo sprinter trains of Deutsche Bahn and converted them into fixed train units with an electric locomotive. The waggons of the cargo transit trains as well as the heavy goods vehicles are equipped with special horizontal transhipment technology. These containerMovers enable the transhipment of standard 7.45-metre swap-bodies or 20’ containers at any cargo station or private siding.
The cargo transit train and the containerMover form an interesting, innovative overall system for fixed routes with several stops between various terminals. The concept already works in Switzerland and is also suitable for short and medium distances. However, it is a special niche system and is not designed for transporting conventional lorry trailers.
Description and functionality
At Innotrans 2010, the company Kockums presented a prototype of Megaswing. This is a special pocket freight waggon with a swingable pocket for lorry trailers. When swung out, the waggon can be loaded and unloaded very easily at any terminal by means of a tractor unit (heavy goods vehicle). Megaswing enables flexible production concepts; it can be used both in block train transport and single waggon transport.
The Megaswing concept enables flexible deployment and represents a convincing solution for the transportation of lorry trailers on the rails. However, here too relatively high levels of initial investment in the vehicle fleet are necessary. So far, Megaswing has only been presented as a prototype. There has not yet been a Europe-wide authorisation of the system.
With the ISU system, the trailer is driven onto a special loading platform before loading. The ropes are connected with unique wheel grippers.
Then a lifting beam has to be connected with the king pins and secured. The actual transhipment of the trailer takes place with conventional technology in the combined cargo terminals (crane; reach stacker). When the preparations have been completed, the trailer can be lifted and placed on a normal trailer pocket waggon. For the sake of security, both the wheel grippers and the beam remain on the trailer.
The ISU system is marketed by the ÖBB subsidiary Ökombi GmbH. It is designed specifically for long-distance transport. The ISU system enables a mixed operation in conventional combined cargo and container trains.
The transhipment of trailers with the ISU system is relatively complicated and costly. The transhipment capacity of the system is therefore considered to be relatively low. In view of its specific disadvantages, it is to be doubted whether this system will be widely implemented and will lead to a significant shift from road to rail transport.
The basic idea of the CargoBeamer system is the automatic transhipment of trailers or swap bodies. With CargoBeamer, waggons and terminals are also closely coordinated as a system. Special trough-shaped palettes, which are available in the terminals and can be loaded and unloaded time-independently from the trains with semitrailers, form the central part of the system. The troughs are automatically moved horizontally in the special terminals with a conveying system. The loading and unloading of a complete CargoBeamer train with 36 transhipment modules takes around 15 minutes.
The troughs are suitable for lifting by crane and can therefore also be transhipped independently of the special infrastructure in a CargoBeamer terminal with conventional technology.
The operating concept envisions a regular block train service between the terminals. In summer 2010, a trial terminal with three transhipment terminals was put into operation in Leipzig.
The CargoBeamer is an innovative approach with great potential. In particular the fast, automated transhipment and the temporal decoupling in the transhipment by heavy goods vehicle and by rail are the strengths of the system. The CargoBeamer now has to prove its potential in a field test.
The French system Modalohr has been in use since 2003. The key elements of the system are special pocket waggons and Modalohr terminals. For the purpose of loading, the pocket waggons in the terminal are swung out by approximately 45 degrees. The lorries drive with the trailers into the swivelled trough of the waggon, deposit the trailer there and then leave it, driving forwards. The waggons are passive, the swinging of the troughs takes place without special motors or hydraulic drive in the waggon. The necessary technology is built into the tracks of the terminal. The Modalohr system is designed for regular block train services within a special Modalohr network.
Due to the special waggons and terminals, the Modalohr system requires a high level of investment. In practical tests, the system has seemingly proved itself in terms of technology, but Modalohr has not yet been able to penetrate the (European) market with its solution. Plans for the international expansion of Modalohr's terminal network connections have so far not been implemented, despite diverse feasibility studies. A scheduled service between Spain and Luxembourg has been announced.