Novel rail transport services
Intermodal road‐rail transport has a medium to high market share for large flows over long distances and for seaport hinterland flows, and competes on cost in these markets with road transport. Due to the small size of this market segment compared to the total transport market the modal shift potential is marginal at best. It is therefore increasingly recognized that the conventional approach to intermodal transport focusing on large flows over long distances may be insufficient to address the persistent problem of a growing modal share of road freight. As a complement to the conventional approach, alternative network operations are needed that allow an intensification of rail services and expansion of geographical coverage. This innovative approach requires fast and efficient transhipment operations, which cannot be achieved by the present conventional terminals since they absorb too much time and money. Hence, technological innovations in the transhipment process will have a major role to play for achieving a modal shift.
The raiload technology enables automatic transhipments of standardised loading units below catenaries and thereby makes fast and efficient transhipment operations possible, both for railrail as well as for rail‐road exchange. By that, the technology facilitates the implementation of innovative rail networks. The aim of this research is to analyse how this technological innovation can be integrated in a context of innovative intermodal transport services.
The results indicate that fast and efficient transhipment technologies are a prerequisite for intermodal linertrains which can integrate short and medium distance transports in the intermodal system. Linertrains can open business opportunities for operators and cost savings for shippers in a market segment which is dominated by road transport. Furthermore, linertrains can further contribute to reaching policy goals, e.g., lower externalities from freight transport and regional development of far‐off regions. Yet, it is still too early to expect a breakthrough of linertrains. The implementation requires a system innovation but current politics and dominant actors still limit their actions to incremental improvements within the current rail production paradigm and dominant technology based on economies of scale and oppose organisational innovations. However, the fact that the implementation of intermodal linertrains seems to be unrealistic today should not discourage policy makers and stakeholders. System innovations are long‐termprocesses and there are indications that the transition process has started. Continuously increasing freight transport volumes and a significantly increased awareness for sustainable development put the dominating road freight transport paradigm under pressure. As a response, transport politics, transport buyers, and transport operators show an increased interest in intermodal transport. Hence, the current barriers should be seen as challenges to overcome rather than as impediments to progress.
To manage the transition towards innovative intermodal transport services and to overcome current barriers, there is a need for connecting the existing dynamics by applying the technological innovation in the existing large‐scale production system. These niche‐applications do not require major changes of transport and logistics structures and can provide room for technological learning and development which is needed to reduce economic uncertainties and risks involved in technological innovations. A promising approach is a new‐generation large scale hub terminal for seaport hinterland flows, since the raiload technology can contribute to solving existing efficiency and capacity problems in this segment of the transport market.