Intermodal Terminals

Intermodal terminals are the interface between the different transport modes and thus are key to access intermodal transport services and to ensure efficient and road-competitive intermodal supply chains throughout Europe.

Besides the pure transshipment of loading units from one transport mode to the other, intermodal terminals have to perform several basic functions, that any intermodal terminal is required to match.
Basic functions:

  • Transshipment of loading units between different transport modes
  • Check in/out functions, such as check of documents, the security and demages of loading units and handling of dangerous goods and respective documents
  • Disposition, such as rail and truck disposition for loading and unloading, disposition of internal transshipments and movements and Terminal management system
  • Ingoing and outgoin train check
  • Intermediate buffer of loading units

Besides the basic functions, intermodal terminals may offer a variety of additional functions, depending on the local demand for them.
Additional functions:

  • Agency function for railways and operators
  • Storage of loading units / Depot
  • Customs
  • Trucking
  • Maintenance, Repair, Cleaning of loading units
  • Reefer
  • Stuffing and Stripping

In most European countries the terminals differentiate between the ownership of the terminal infrastructure- and superstructure on the one hand, and the operation and management on the other hand. The ownership corresponds to the ownership of the land itself, typical infrastructures such as the rail tracks and superstructures such as Rail-mounted Gantry Cranes or Reach stackers. The management is dealing with the daily operation of the terminal which might be done by the owner or a dedicated operational company. However, the common understanding of terminals is based on the following principles:

  • Principle of non-discriminative access to terminals (at least for those that have received public funding):
  • Rail-side access for all licensed railway undertakings
  • Road-side access for all operators
  • Transparent capacity allocation and pricing
  • Bundling of different cargoes (maritime container, continental cargoes), and market segments (international and domestic relations) and thus improved capacity utilisation

This type of terminal is an own entity in the transport chain.

The capacity of a CT terminal is determined by a couple of factors, which can only partly be influenced by the local terminal manager. The primary influences are the position of the terminal within the rail and road network, the size and shape of the real estate, the length of the handling tracks, and the number and capabilities of the handling equipment. In recent years a modular shape of terminals has been developed which is made of:

  • one – or better double-sided rail access, where
  • signalling allows for entry with momentum and direct departure of the train by the main line traction unit,
  • three to five “train long” (length can vary between countries) handling or transhipment tracks, with
  • rail-mounted gantry cranes (RMG),
  • two to three interim storage or buffer lanes,
  • one loading and one driving lane,
  • road side access with
  • check-in / check-out area (gate) and sufficient parking space.

One typical module of that kind should be able to handle about 120-150.000 loading units p.a. (rail-in and rail-out handlings). While a doubling or even trebling could improve the capacity accordingly.

  • 4 transshipment tracks up to 700 m each
  • 2 gantry cranes
  • 1 road lane for trucks
  • 1 road lane for loading and unloading of trucks
  • 4 lanes for intermediate buffer of loading units
  • 2-4 railway sidings to ensure multiple use of transshipment tracks

Information on particular intermodal terminals is required by intermodal operators, customers of intermodal transport services and the “interested community” of intermodal supporters. Several sources of information exist, but each of these sources provides a specific set of information in various formats and actuality. With the approach is to provide a single access to uniform information on intermodal transport terminals in Europe. Starting with the data on terminals operated by the partners of the Marco Polo II project AGORA, it shall be expanded geographically and from the content perspective continuously.