Intermodal freight transport involves the transportation of freight in an intermodal container or vehicle, using multiple modes of transportation (rail, ship, and truck), without any handling of the freight itself when changing modes. The method reduces cargo handling, and so improves security, reduces damage and loss, and allows freight to be transported faster. Reduced costs over road trucking is the key benefit for inter-continental use. This may be offset by reduced timings for road transport over shorter distances.
Large-scale logistics buildings and their funding is a well-established market, but the rail freight terminal and rail freight terminal market is not although they offer regional advantages on transport cost efficiency.
Paradoxically rail freight haulage operators have little direct input into the development of the intermodal terminal market as they are neither land or property developers. While they operate terminals, these tend to be ‘old stock’ terminals sometimes built in the Victorian age of rail building. Two major factors block their future requirement, funding and land availability in the right locations, i.e. away from urban congested areas and sensitive housing settlements.
While the government has recognised the future rail freight intermodal market as being in the private sector they have also been investing heavily in the rail lines to create better ‘pathways’ for more efficient longer freight trains and larger containers.
The FTA has said it is optimistic that the new (TfN] strategy will ‘incentivise the logistics sector and rail industry to work together on new intermodal models to relieve pressure on Britain’s road network.’ It says the sector must also be ready to innovate, because its markets are changing rapidly, and improve its methods of communicating the advantages of rail.
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Electric and rechargable ‘hubs’for all forms of rail and road vehicles will be the aim for all such projects.
The Government are now keen to establish a network of SRFI’s in the UK but have not offered any indication of prefered locations, leaving this choice initially to developers, so they have mainly been in the East Midlands as London and the South land availability is more difficult. The North West is also a strong location though recently there have been promises of such infrastructure projects boosting the aims of HS3 and the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ now Transport for the North (TfN).
Similar requirements are stated throughout Europe and for staging posts or distribution ‘hubs’ along the longer strategic routes or close to or with access to major urban areas.
Logistics and distribution operators provide local and regional delivery services once the long-haul containers are unpacked and their contents resorted. The containers will arrive by both road and rail.