Advantages & Disadvantages of European Intermodal Transport

What the pros and cons of European intermodal transport?

Intermodal transport is when both rail and road infrastructures are used to deliver a full load shipment. It is best suited to long distance journeys such as UK exports to Spain, Italy, Southern France, Poland and Romania. Goods are loaded in 13.6 metre curtain-sided or rigid sided swap body trailers which can be craned from the chassis of road freight vehicle onto a train’s chassis.

The main advantage is weight maximisation. HGVs are restricted in general to a payload of 25 tonnes. Intermodal swap body trailers can take up to 28 tonnes. European weekend and bank holiday driving bans applicable to HGVs do not apply to intermodal trailers. The carbon footprint is a lot less and costs tend to be less for longer distance journeys.

The main disadvantage is speed. Intermodal deliveries are invariably 1-3 days longer than driver-accompanied trailers. Timely delivery also relies on there being no delays on the rail network and sufficient drivers available to make the shunts to the UK rail terminal and from the European rail terminal to the final delivery point. There is no flexibility if circumstances change enroute.

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