Integrated Freight Transport Systems: Intermodal and Transmodal
Connectivity is of core importance in contemporary
freight distribution as it is concomitantly an intermodal and a transmodal
activity. In integrated transport systems the time component has become
increasingly significant. Since modal speed improvements tend to be
marginal, it is at the terminal that most of the time and cost benefits are achieved.
is more than an intermodal activity, it also concerns movements within segments of the same mode.
As supply chains became longer and more complex, the pressure on intermodal
and transmodal transportation increased. In this geography
connectivity linking different parts of the transport systems, freight markets
and freight forwarders are interacting with increasing efficiency.
Intermodal connectivity (managing flows between
modes) have received the bulk of the attention:
Transmodal connectivity (managing flows
within the same mode) have received less attention, the main reason being that
until recently they mainly took place within fragmented and regulated
national transport systems. The main transmodal dimensions include:
- Transloading facility. An intermodal
terminal enabling the transfer from road to rail transport
systems. In North America, they are commonly labeled as
intermodal yards or terminals.
- On-dock rail. An
intermodal terminal enabling the transfer from maritime
to rail transport systems.
- Port container yard. An
terminal enabling the transfer of cargoes from maritime to road
transport systems. Many port terminal facilities
- Transmodal road. Mainly takes place at distribution centers,
which have become strategic elements in freight distribution systems.
It is probably one of the few cases where connectivity
can be combined with added value activities, such as labeling and
packaging. Although distribution centers were conventionally warehousing
facilities in which commodities could be stored while waiting to
be sold to customers down the supply chain, this function has substantially
receded. Time constraints in freight distribution impacted on road
based distribution centers, whose function is increasingly related
to transmodal connectivity and much less to warehousing. The true
time-dependent transmodal facility remains the
- Transmodal maritime. Ship-to-ship connectivity mainly
concerns transshipment hubs such as in the
Caribbean, the Mediterranean
or ship-to-barge activities. Although in many cases the containers
are actually unloaded onto a temporary storage facility (commonly
next to the piers), an off-shore hub is functionally a transmodal
facility. They have emerged at intermediary locations by offering
transshipment advantages in view of costs related to pendulum multiport
services coupled with lower container handling cost, in addition to economies of scale for feeder ships.
- Transmodal rail. Most rail systems
were built to service specific markets and were heavily regulated.
It is only recently that deregulation and containerization created the need for transmodal
functions in rail transport systems, since rail transportation was
"forced" to address a new variety of movements, many of them with
international origins or destinations. Initially, rail developed
greater intermodal efficiencies with maritime and road transport
systems, particularly because this represented new market opportunities.
- Transmodal air (not shown). The development
of global air freight networks involving long distance air hauls
supported the setting of transmodal air hubs. Like air
passengers hubs, their setting is the outcome of the decision of
cargo airlines about how to route their freight considering its
origins and destinations, the level of demand and the technical
limitations of aircrafts in terms of range and capacity.