Development of intermodal transport could significantly reduce negative environmental effects

Posted by Bíró Koppány Ajtony
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99 percent of trailers currently used in Hungary are not rail compatible.

The target set by the EU transport policy is to achieve a modal shift of 30% of road freight over 300 km within a couple of years, and more than 50% by 2050 to water and rail transportation. But 99 percent (over 500,000) of trailers and semi-trailers currently used in Hungary are non-cranable and not rail compatible. A new technology by LOHR, already used in several European countries, offers a viable solution to this problem. Representatives of CFL Multimodal and LOHR Industrie talked about the advantages of the new method at the event organized by MLSZKSZ in Budapest. The solution by LOHR could boost the development of intermodal transport in Hungary, significantly reduce negative environmental effects of transport, bring new business opportunities to rail transport companies, and solve one of the major problems in the logistics sector, the shortage of truck drivers.

Intermodal freight transport involves the transportation of freight in an intermodal container or vehicle, using multiple modes of transportation (e.g., rail, ship, and truck), without any handling of the freight itself when changing modes. Development of intermodal freight transport in Hungary corresponds to the EU transport policy, as the target set in the EU White Paper is to achieve a modal shift of 30% of road freight over 300 km by 2030, and more than 50% by 2050.  

The intermodal transport solution by the French company LOHR, which allows conventional semi-trailers to be transported by train on standard railway tracks, is increasingly popular in Western Europe. Modalohr might be a perfect solution for Hungary, because 99 percent (over 500,000) of currently used trailers and semi-trailers are not rail compatible.

Representatives of CFL Multimodal (Luxemburg) and LOHR Industrie (France) presented the key characteristics, costs and advantages of LOHR intermodal solution to top executives of Hungarian freight forwarding and logistics companies at the event hosted by MLSZKSZ in Budapest. The solution called Modalohr has two key elements: specially-designed double-articulated wagons on which the trailer or semi-trailer can be pulled by a tractor, and a special rail terminal infrastructure that allows pivoting the cradle on the wagons. Unlike traditional intermodal terminals, there is no need for thick basalt concrete pavement, straddle carrier or mobile loading machine, which are the most expensive parts of terminal infrastructure.

Another advantage of Modalohr is scalability, i.e. there is no need to build the whole terminal at once, but it can be built in phases as the transport volume grows. Therefore the total investment required for building a horizontal terminal is only half or third of what is needed for building a traditional vertical terminal.

“Our mid-range goal is that 10 percent of trailers and semi-trailers in Hungary are rail compatible and used for intermodal transport. This is an ambitious but reachable goal thanks to recent technical and technological development, and might bring unprecedented cooperation between road and rail freight forwarders”, said FÜLÖP Zsolt, President of MLSZKSZ. He added that intermodal transport could significantly reduce negative environmental effects of transport, and bring new business opportunities to rail transport companies. Intermodal transport could also be the long-term solution for one of the major challenges in the logistics sector: the shortage of truck drivers.