Evaluation and Modelling of Short Haul Intermodal Transport Systems

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: Conventional intermodal rail freight transport systems have proved themselves competitive and able to offer cost-leadership on long distances and in endpoint relations between two nodes. Several studies within intermodal transports have made contributions in finding the minimum distance, the “break-even” distance that an intermodal door-to-door shipment can compete with unimodal road. The results for European conditions are found in the range 300-800 km. The main aim of this doctoral thesis has been to analyse under which conditions a short haul transport system with the railway as a base can be considered a feasible solution.This has been conducted within the framework of two research projects. In the main research project of this thesis; REGCOMB (Regional Combined Transport System – A system study in the greater Stockholm-Mälaren region), the feasibility is evaluated in a bi-sectional manner; first a quantitative assessment is carried out where costs and CO2 emission are estimated for a set of transport alternatives in the greater Stockholm region, Sweden. The project involves a case study of a shipper’s distribution of daily consumables in the Stockholm-Mälaren region. The case study evaluates the concept of an intermodal liner train, which differs from other conventional rail freight systems, as it similar to a passenger train makes stops along the route for loading and unloading. The quantitative assessment has been accomplished by the development of a cost model, Intermodal Transport Cost Model (ITCM). The most critical parameters are the train’s loading space utilization and the transshipment. The time and cost spent for transshipment of unit loads restrict the competitiveness of intermodal services on shorter distances as these parameters are not proportional to transported distance but rather to the utilization rate of resources. Hence, the concept of cost-efficient small scale (CESS) terminals is introduced and evaluated in this study. Second, a qualitative assessment of the socio-technical system is carried out regarding stakeholders’ perspectives and requirements; based on the participative research i.e. experts involved in in-depth interviews, workshops and a survey. The system must satisfy broader policy objectives of local authorities and commercial corporate interests in order to be adopted. The business model that represents the conceptual idea of the study is identified as ‘the local cooperation model’, where the intermodal transport service is organized by several local actors along a transport route. Regions where cost-leadership coincides with a strong will from local authorities to implement regulations in the freight transport market that promote intermodal transports have created a foundation for implementing short haul intermodal rail freight services. Two operational examples are presented in this thesis; the E&S system in Japan and the Innovatrain system in Switzerland.In the minor research project of the thesis; BIOSUN (Sustainable Intermodal Supply Systems for Biofuel and Bulk Freight), an evaluation is carried out regarding rail-based multimodal transportation of wood biofuels. In essence, it is the factors affecting rail transportation of biofuel and the inherent capability of the rail mode that are addressed. The qualitative evaluation consists of STEEP analysis for the external factors influencing the transport system and sustainability analysis for the internal factors. These methods are complemented by quantitative analysis of a case study, which offered an opportunity to model a rail-based multimodal transport chain for the supply of a heating plant in Gothenburg, Sweden. The results of the case study show that the break-even distance is considerably lower for biofuel transport chains than for other commodities; 180-250 km, which is mainly due to the requirement of road-road transshipment as well as the fact that intermodal terminals can be combined with wood processing facilities.