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Gotthard Tunnel, Switzerland: Intermodal system CargoBeamer enables combined transport of all 4m high semi-trailers

CargoBeamer is a European transport system consisting of special wagons and terminals with revolutionary cargo handling which allow all non-liftable semi-trailers to be shifted from road to rail.

  • First successful rail transport of standard, 4m high semi-trailers on the Gotthard route
  • CargoBeamer enables regular transport of non-liftable 4m-high semi-trailers between Germany and Italy – regular operation will start in summer 2014
  • Significant contribution to Swiss “traffic relocation from road to rail”

CargoBeamer used its innovative rail wagons for pilot transport of standard, non-liftable 4m high semi-trailers through the Swiss Gotthard Tunnel. CargoBeamer and the Swiss BLS Cargo will already start regular transport on a Germany-Italy route this year.

CargoBeamer is a European transport system consisting of special wagons and terminals with revolutionary cargo handling which allow all non-liftable semi-trailers to be shifted from road to rail.

“We are very pleased to contribute to environmentally friendly combined rail transport on the Gotthard route. Freight traffic on European roads is forecast to grow by 75 percent by 2025, threatening to put the continent’s road infrastructure on the verge of traffic collapse”, said Hans-Juergen Weidemann, CEO of CargoBeamer. “CargoBeamer anticipates this development and has the potential to counter the situation by shifting cargo traffic efficiently and environmentally friendly from road to rail.”

Until now, two major constraints limit the success of traffic relocation to rail on the Gotthard route.  First, less than 15 percent of the entire cargo transport on road can participate in combined transport due to technical constraints: semi-trailers are generally not compatible with container cranes.
Secondly, the Gotthard Tunnel, built in 1872-1882 and already in operation for 130 years, limits combined rail transport to the so-called “P384/60 Gabarit” profile, which means that semi-trailers must not exceed a height of 384cm when being transported on flat rail wagons on this route.

In consequence, until today, none of the 4m high, non-liftable semi-trailers that dominate road transport on the Gotthard road route could be transported through the Gotthard Rail Tunnel.
In 2016, the new Gotthard Base Tunnel will be opened – but still, the aforementioned two constraints will remain: despite the perfect conditions for rail transport in the new 57km Base Tunnel, several old tunnels on the route across Switzerland still limit the height for semi-trailer transport to a 384cm maximum. It is estimated that it will take until 2022 for the upgrade of all critical tunnel passages to the required 4 meter profile.

On the CargoBeamer wagons, the loading level is extremely low, thus enabling 4m high semi-trailers to be transported through the Gotthard Tunnel. Last week, Swiss SBB Infrastruktur issued formal approval for the first transports.

CargoBeamer solves both problems using its innovative wagons: the semi-trailers are placed onto special loading palettes which are compatible with normal container cranes – drivers just drive onto this palette and release the semi-trailer from the truck. For the transfer onto the rail wagons, either standard cranes, reach stackers or CargoBeamer’s innovative and automated terminal modules can be used.

CargoBeamer’s wagon and terminal technology makes intermodal transport highly efficient through an extremely effective transshipment process. Due to parallel and fully automated loading of trailers onto rail wagons in CargoBeamer’s terminals, the entire loading process is reduced to 15 minutes. Thus, with additional inspection time, the trains are ready for departure after just approx. one hour after arrival.

Compared to conventional transport of semi-trailers by truck, this technology enables emission reduction by up to 70 percent and energy consumption reduction by up to 60 percent.

Car manufacturer Volkswagen AG has been using this environmentally friendly transport mode since mid of last year in Germany. In its Wolfsburg manufacturing plant, Volkswagen has built an innovative, fully automated CargoBeamer rail/road terminal which has been in operation since July 1st, 2013. On the Spain-Germany route, CargoBeamer wagons carry modern MEGA trailers for inbound material transports.

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