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Comparing technologies

Combined transportation is gaining ground

The combined road and rail transportation is gaining increasing importance within the logistics industry. New technical solutions and alternatives are being introduced in a market where established providers have been active for many years. A distinction is made between the transport of craneable and non-craneable trailers in combined transportation. The Nagel-Group uses both loading methods.

Foto: Andre Zelck

The terminal tractor drives onto the terminal platform slowly and positions the trailer in the middle of the transportation platform . After the tractor has been uncoupled, a four armed grappler reaches from above and latches onto the platform with the trailer. The trailer and transportation platform are handled as one unit which is then lifted centimetre by centimetre. More than 30 tonnes float in midair. The exceptional feature: a non-craneable trailer is transformed into a craneable trailer in just a few minutes.

The crane operator gently positions the transport plate along with the trailer onto the pocket wagon of the goods train. The trans-shipment of the trailer and the preparation for rail transportation are now complete. After transportation by rail, the loading process will be once again carried out at the destination, then in reverse order and the trailer is back on the road. The system described here is called NiKraSa.

NiKraSa creates saving potentials

In times when it is becoming increasingly important to relieve parts of the European road network, such rail transport systems are enjoying ever more success within combined transportation, as they protect the environment and they are very cost effective for companies,” says Lukas Tworek, analyst at carrier management of the Nagel-Group.

Companies save additional investment in their fleet if they opt for the NiKraSa system because they do not have to buy special trailers. However, additional time of up to five minutes is needed per loading operation compared to conventional combined transportation because the trailer has to be positioned on the transport platform in order to be loaded along with it. Only the transport of paired traffic is possible because the NiKraSa platform has to be returned.

Respond flexibly and quickly

This is different in the case of craneable trailers. These can be used flexibly as the transports do not need to be necessarily paired. Moreover, the loading process can be carried out more quickly since the trailer does not have to be pulled onto the NiKraSa platform by a shunter in order to be loaded jointly.

"This trailer is directly cranebale using four lifting points on the reinforced outer frame of the trailer and it can be then positioned on one of the many pocket wagons,” says Lukas Tworek. Although the acquisition of such a special trailer results in additional costs, these are showing a downward trend.

Benefit from the advantages: the Nagel-Group uses both systems

In order to benefit from both systems of combined transportation, the Nagel-Group uses both craneable as well as non-craneable trailers. Rail-transportable trailers that have been already purchased are prepared for rail transport using conventional crane loading system. Non-craneable trailers can also be transported by train using the NiKraSa system.

On rail, the Nagel-Group is already using the connection between Hamburg and Nuremberg as well as Hanover and Nuremberg. "We transport one craneable refrigerated trailer in both directions five times a week. This allows us to save ten national transports on the road per week," says Lukas Tworek.

From road to rail

Meanwhile, ten transport platforms are also currently in operation on the Padborg-Verona and Herne-Verona routes. Since summer 2014, the Nagel-Group has been making use of rail transport with TX Logistik on the route between Padborg and Verona in each direction four to five times a week. The NiKraSA System is used for transportation on the route Herne-Verona once per week.

Generally, transport by rail ensures a high degree of punctuality. Also the dramatic increase in the shortage of drivers within the logistics industry makes a compelling case for shifting transport from road to rail. However, companies in the logistics industry are not the only ones benefiting from growing rail transport. Both, customers who enjoy greater planning security and punctuality, and the environment which is protected by relieving the road network, reap the benefits of combined transportation.

The Nagel-Group is currently examining which additional transports at present can be shifted from road to rail and it intends to continually increase the proportion of freight transported by rail for ecological and economic reasons.

Header picture: Photo - Andre Zelck

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