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Efficient and cost-effective intermodal road-rail container freight system

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SAFE-CTS (Efficient and cost-effective intermodal road-rail container freight system)

Reporting period: 2016-12-01 to 2017-11-30

There is an urgent need for a change in the European (and global) freight transport and logistics industry. Road transport is presently still the preferred mode of freight transport in the EU. In 2012, road transport accounted for >79% of the total cargo in EU, representing 92% of the external costs (costs for the society caused by pollution, accidents, congestions, etc.). Hence, there is a very high potential to improve the sustainability and performance of freight transport by moving road-based transport towards more sustainable transportation means, such as rail.

At the same time, the market for freight solutions is significant and growing. Frost and Sullivan estimates total European revenues for road and rail freight at €435 billion in 2012 (€390 bn for road and €45 bn for rail freight). Therefore, there is a good business opportunity for new effective solutions within this area. In parallel, governments are pushing for stricter rules in the environmental area thereby supporting green solutions.

Safe Green Logistics A/S (SGL) is an innovative logistics company with a mission to optimize efficiency in the European and global freight transport and logistics. SGL together with key partner PVF Schinenfahrzeuge (PVF), specialized in engineering and product maturation for cargo/freight industries, aim at pursuing the aforementioned business opportunity by demonstrating an efficient and cost-effective freight logistics system based on multimodal transport as an alternative to road transport.

The innovation is based upon a truck/train container transfer system (CTS) and a disruptive re-organization of the freight logistical networks in regional Base terminals. By bringing the disruptive SAFE-CTS concept to market, SGL will drastically optimize the entire inland freight value chain, through cheaper, faster and greener transport of goods. It will empower a paradigm shift by moving part of the increasing freight transport demand from road to more efficient multimodal rail-road transport logistics.

The ultimate long-term vision of SGL is to revolutionize the entire freight transport industry through the massive use of the SAFE-CTS technology. However, the company acknowledges the high risk involved and the need to engage a large number of stakeholders throughout the whole value chain in order to accomplish this ambitious vision. Hence, SGL has decided to follow a phased approach to commercialize the SAFE-CTS system. Firstly, SGL will aim at the demonstration and commercial deployment of SAFE-CTS in individual routes comprising point-to-point transport. This prospect of point-to-point transport lines with one intermodal Base at either end represents a fast route to market by limiting financial, regulatory and technological risks. Once the concept and its value proposition has been proved in the operation of these point-to-point lines, SGL expects to scale the implementation of the concept within enlarged regions comprising networks of several railway lines/cargo routes – thus deploying the full logistical concept, including automatic sorting central HUBs, and related aggregated advantages.

The present innovation project will focus on demonstrating the SAFE-CTS technology in the transhipment of containers loaded with cargo from a truck trailer to a train wagon. This will be the first step towards showcasing the concept and validating the technology under operational conditions, thus representing a key milestone for overcoming prevailing market entrance barriers for SGL.
During the first year of the project, the design and engineering of the SAFE-CTS test units to be demonstrated in the project was successfully completed, and the manufacturing of the test units was started. During the second year, the manufacturing and installation of the CTS test units was completed. This was followed by an intensive testing program of the units, comprising static and dynamic testing of the transhipment of containers (loaded with up to 30 tons) between a truck trailer and a train wagon. The transhipment tests were run in a warehouse environment, enabling a controlled testing environment and an intensive programme of tests. An operational testing phase in a live railway pilot route is foressen in the post-project period.

In addition, several dissemination, exploitation and business development activities were performed during the whole project duration, focused towards achieving our market development objectives. In particular, we have reached a significant number of potential lead customers to showcase the value of the technology and assess possible business models and commercializations strategies. Furthermore, we liaised with other stakeholders within the freight transport and railway industries to study and collect relevant information on market needs and requirements.
Current loading/unloading processes at intermodal terminals are performed by a single crane, which needs to move the containers one by one along the train. SAFE-CTS brings a high level of autonomy to intermodal operations, where the driver is capable to exchange containers between train and truck – enabling a dramatic reduction of intermodal operation times from many hours (up to 8h) with today’ technologies to less than 20 min for a complete train-set using SAFE-CTS. So far, a few innovative concepts combining truck and rail transport have been introduced in the market but, none of them have shown the potential or gained the momentum for national or international (European) rollout. Moreover, the very low requirements in terms of infrastructure adaptation within the SAFE-CTS Bases empower the potential of building a number of intermodal Bases, which brings a completely new level of flexibility and cost-efficiency for multimodal transport.

In a nutshell, the novel SAFE-CTS solution is a key enabler for door-to-door freight delivery based on cost-effective road-rail multimodal transport, relying on CTS units that are adaptable to the freight forwarder´s existing containers, trucks and train wagons, and thereby enabling fast and passive containers exchange between trucks and trains, without using heavy cranes, vehicles or other equipment. The passive system to transfer containers will require very low investment in road-rail modal interfaces (intermodal Bases). The facilitated access to freight railway services through the access points to trains and the improved efficiency and cost-effectiveness of intermodal operations introduced by the novel CTS will dramatically increase the competitiveness of rail transport mode against the road-based transport of goods. Accordingly, SAFE-CTS will enable a significant reduction in internal costs, as a result of the lower costs of rail transport.

In addition, SAFE-CTS will have a large positive effect in terms of external costs borne by the society, essentially by drastically reducing the number of trucks in the roads thus enabling safer and greener transport. In particular, the SAFE-CTS concept is projected to enable a reduction of the road freight emissions of CO2 by at least 35% by moving traffic from roads to trains. In the longer run, the wide implementation of the concept will enable implementing freight transports based on electrical vehicles, by reducing truck routes to a maximum of 100 km per run day (50 km per trip). This would boost further the societal and environmental gains – enabling zero-emissions freight transports.
Value Proposition of the SAFE-CTS concept