The importance of new-generation freight terminals for intermodal transport

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  • Journal of Advanced Transportation, Vol. 34, No. 3, pp. 391-413 w w w.advanced-transport.com

    The Importance of New-Generation Freight Terminals For Intermodal Transport

    Y.M. Bontekoning

    Manufacturers have been promoting new terminal concepts for several years. They claim more efficient operations, shorter handling times and lower costs compared to conventional operations. However, so far no new-generation terminals have been implemented, nor is there any intention yet to implement them. This is regrettable, because if new-generation terminal concepts can achieve what their designers claim, these terminals could significantly improve the competitiveness of intermodal transport. It is expected that new-generation terminals will perform particularly well in complex bundling networks such as hub and spoke, collection-distribution and line networks. A static-process analysis is used to evaluate the claimed terminal performances. The method incorporates the terminal function and the type of bundling network. Specific network situations have been defined for each type of bundling network. This study shows that the new concepts perform better than the reference terminal and shunting in complex bundling operations.

    1, Supply Of New-Generation Intermodal Terminals

    In recent years, trade papers such as World Cargo News, Containerisation International and Intermodal Shipping have covered the news about new rail transhipment technologies and new-generation terminals for intermodal transport. Manufacturers have been promoting their new terminal concepts for several years. They claim more efficient operations, shorter handling times and lower costs compared to conventional operations, thanks to automation and new, compact layouts. However, so far no new-generation terminals have been implemented, nor is there any intention yet to actually implement them.

    Y.W. Bontekoning is at the Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Spatial Organisation, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands. Received: October 1999; Accepted: September 2000

  • 392 Y.M. Bontekoning

    This is regrettable, because if these new-generation terminal concepts can achieve what their developers say they can, new-generation terminals could significantly improve the competitiveness of intermodal transport. Improving this is very important, because many governments aim to achieve a modal shift from road transport to intermodal transport. They would rather aim at improving the competitiveness of intermodal transport than enforce additional taxes and regulations on road transport. Stimulating intermodal transport is a policy common to numerous governments world-wide, due to the increasing pollution and congestion generated by road transport [European Community ( 1993), Ministerie van Verkeer en Waterstaat (the Dutch Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management) (1996), the US Transportation Research Board (1994), Muller (19931. Governments emphasise the benefits of intermodal transport, such as its environmental friendliness and its contribution to decreasing road congestion.

    Thus, on one hand there is a need for improvements in intermodal quality, and on the other, terminal solutions are being offered to improve that quality. This raises the question: why have terminal, node and transport operators not invested in these promising new-generation terminals if these could improve the competitiveness of intermodal transport?

    At least part of the answer is that manufacturers nowadays offer complete terminal systems, while in the past only single items of equipment, such as cranes, reach stackers, terminal trucks, etc. were offered. These complete terminal systems include the hardware, such as transhipment and storage equipment, but also software, such as operational strategies and a terminal operational system. Investment decisions have therefore become much riskier, for three reasons. Firstly, this development leads to higher investment sums; secondly, the cost structure of these terminals is still unclear; and thirdly, the performance evaluation of new-generation terminals has become a much more complicated matter.

    This highlights the need for a good evaluation of these newly developed terminal concepts, both for the transport industry itself and for society. If such terminals can genuinely contribute to more efficient intermodal operations, then they should be implemented. The outcomes of an objective evaluation study might remove doubts about the value of new-generation terminals for the transport industry and reduce investment risks.

  • The Importance of NewGeneration Freight ... 393

    In this paper an evaluation study carried out as part of the EC-project Terminet is discussed [see also Bontekoning & Kreutzberger, 20001. Terminet was a 3-year research project carried out by a consortium for the DG-VII (Transport) of the European Commission. Terminet is an acronym for New concepts of networks and terminals for multi-modal freight transport. The author participated in this project as researcher and co-ordinator. In Section 2, I briefly present the new-generation terminals that have been evaluated. The characteristics of these terminals are quite different. Comparing apples and pears involves the application of an adequate evaluation methodology. In Section 3, I discuss the evaluation studies found in the literature and the methodology adopted for the evaluation, the results of which are presented in Section 4. In Section 5 , more comprehensive findings will be presented.

    2. New-Generation Terminals In Europe

    Besides appearing in trade papers, new-generation terminals have also been described and occasionally analysed in the scientific literature. New-generation terminals (barge and rail) have been investigated and studied over at least the last 5 years. Venemans [ed., 19941, Rutten [1995], Kreutzberger [1995], Cargo Systems [ 19961, European Commission [ 19971, Woxenius [ 19981, Meyer [ 19981 and Bontekoning and Kreutzberger [ 19991 have all published on new-generation terminals. Together these publications give an interesting overview of innovative rail, barge and short-sea concepts. Sometimes they overlap and sometimes they are supplementary. Together they also provide insights into how some of these concepts have developed over the years.

    The evaluation study covered in this paper is carried out for new- generation rail terminals as described by Bontekoning and Kreutzberger [ 19991. New-generation, in their definition, implies the use of automation and robotisation, integrated operations and compact layout. The rail terminal concepts to which this definition applies are: (1) Noell Megahub, (2) Commutor, (3) Krupp Megahub/ Highrack, (4) Krupp Compact, ( 5 ) Krupp Small, (6) Noell SUT 1200, (7) Noell SUT 400, (8) Transmann TM-V1, (9) Tuchschmid CT 31600, (10) Tuchschmid CTU100, (1 1) CCT Plus large and (12) CCT Plus small. In the appendix a brief description of the characteristics and features of these terminals will be offered, including diagrammatic layouts. For

  • 394 Y.M. Bontekoning

    detailed descriptions and a profound analysis I refer the reader to Bontekoning and Kreutzberger [2000].

    3. Terminal Evaluation

    3.1 Existing evaluation methodologies

    In the literature, various authors have addressed the subject of terminal evaluation. Much of this literature deals with measuring the efficiency and productivity of seaport terminals, especially with regard to container terminals [Notteboom, Coeck & van den Broeck, 19981. Only a few publications have addressed the evaluation of intermodal terminals (rail or barge terminals). The methods applied can be categorised into the following groups: 1. Partial productivity measures or partial outputhnput ratios, such as

    TEUkrane, moves per hour [Notteboom, Coeck & van den Broeck, 19981;

    2. Quantitative research techniques to examine the overall efficiency of terminals, such as: 0 Factor analysis [used by e.g. Tongzon, 19951; 0 Linear programming [used by e.g. Hayuth & Roll, 19931; 0 Bayesian Stochastic Frontier model [used by e.g. Notteboom,

    Coeck & van den Broeck, 19981; 0 Analytical queuing models [used by e.g. Ferreira & Sigut, 19931;

    3. Dynamic modelling and simulation studies. This category comprises many different approaches. A Petri network approach has been used by Waidringer and Lumsden [ 19981, Voges, Kesselmeier and Beister [1998], and Meyer [1998]. Object, event and process-oriented simulation models have been used by Palmer, McLeod and Leue [ 19941, Hedrick, and Akalin [ 19891, Brunner [ 19941, Ballis and Abacoumkin [ 19961 and Kondratowicz [ 19901, amongst others;

    4. The Weight Criterion method [used by e.g. Woxenius [1998], Jonsson and Kroon [1990], Goldbeck-Lowe and SyrCn [1993] and Lindau et al. [1993].

    For an extensive overview of port and terminal evaluation models, see Ojala [ 19921.

  • The Importance of New-Generation Freight ... 395

    3.2 The relevance of bundling networks in terminal evaluation

    Before elaborating on which methodology is best suited to this evaluation study, the importance of bundling networks needs to be discussed, because new-generation terminals have been designed for complex bundling networks. Bundling is an important option for freight flows that are not large enough to fill larger transport units (such as trains or barges) or intermodal load units (such as maritime and continental containers, swap bodies and semi-trailers). Bundling is the combined transport of freight belonging to different transport relations (= different origins and/or destinations) in common transport units and/or load units during common parts of the route. The advantages of bundling can include any or all of the following:

    0 the utilisation of the transport units and/or load units is more satisfactory (higher loading degree). Alternatively, larger transport or load units can be involved; transport services per relation have higher frequencies; more origin - destination pairs can be served. 0

    These advantages result in lower transport costs per unit. The disadvantages of bundling are additional transhipments in the transport chain and detours, which result in increasing chain transit time and costs [Bontekoning and Kreutzberger, 20001.

    Kreutzberger [ 1995, 1998 and in: Vleugel and Kreutzberger, 19971 distinguishes the following four basic bundling models (see Figure 1):

    A. point-to-point networks; B. collection-distribution networks (CD networks); C. hub-and-spoke networks, and; D. line networks. These bundling models refer to a main mode network, by which is

    meant the mode (rail or barge in the case of intermodality) used over the longest distance in a network. At the start and end points of these main mode networks, trucks take care of the transport between the startlend terminal and the shipper (pre-haulage and end haulage).

    Figure 1 also shows the different terminal functions that can be distinguished. The function of a terminal depends on the type of bundling network and its location in the network. A distinction can be made between start and end terminals, intermediate line terminals, collection- distribution (CD) terminals and hub terminals.

  • 396 Y.M. Bontekoning

    0 Start-end terminal 0 Intermediate line terminal

    Point-to-point bundling

    Line bundling

    Collection Distribution bundling

    Hub and Spoke bundling

    CD-terminal 8 Hub-terminal

    Source: Bontekoning and Krmtzberper, 2000 (adjusted)

    Fig. 1. Bundling models and terminal functions.

    3.3 Expected improvement of intermodal competitiveness due to new- generation terminals

    In Section 1 it was argued that policy makers aim at improving the competitiveness of intermodal transport in relation to road transport. In order for intermodal transport to be more competitive than road transport, it implies that intermodal transport performs better than road transport on among other things cost and lead-time. In graphical form this implies that the cost or time curve of intermodal transport should stay below that of road transport. Figure 2 shows one cost curve for road transport and three cost curves for intermodal transport (one for each type of bundling) for a given distance x. The same curves can be applied to time. This Figure is a further development of figures that illustrate break-even distances between modes such as road, inland shipping and rail without transhipment [see e.g. INRO-TNO (1993) in: Gent, 19941. In these types of figures the position were the two lines cross each other is

  • The Importance of New-Generation Freight ... 397

    the break-even distance at which both modes perform equally well on costs or time. Left and right from that point, the lowest curve represents the most competitive mode. Rutten (1995) used these types of figures to compare intermodal transport and road transport adding transhipment costs (or time) and costs (or time) for pre- and end haulage. He pointed out that in the intermodal context the break-even distance is not at the point where the two lines cross, but at the end of the curve. Namely, the intermodal curve shows an accumulation of costs (or time) on a certain distance. Consequently for each distance a separate cost curve should be determined. Rutten only identified the costhime curve for point-to-point networks. Based on the identification of various bundling networks and terminal functions in this paper, cost and time curves for collection- distribution, hub-and-spoke and line networks have been added.

    costs or Time

    Hub and spoke network \ A 0 :

    0 . /

    A ..**' Distribution network

    t Point-to-point and Line network B

    Distance X

    A = Pre Or end haulage by truck B = transhipment

    C = collectioddistribution by feeder trains D= main link transport

    Source: based on Rutten (1995) p.45

    Fig. 2. Cost curves intermodal transport versus cost curve road transport

    Complex bundling networks such as hub and spoke, collection- distribution and line networks are needed to improve the competitiveness of intermodal transport, because of the advantages of bundling mentioned earlier. New-generation terminals, with their claims to more

  • 398 Y.M. Bontekoning

    efficient operations, shorter handling times and lower costs, could offset the disadvantages of bundling (increased costs and chain lead time due to transhipment). With the introduction of new-generation terminals (replacing conventional terminal or shunting yards) the cost and time curves of intermodal transport could shift downwards (intermodal becomes more competitive), because: 1. transhipment costs (and time) decrease due to more efficient

    operations; 2. costs (and time) on the link decrease due to more sophisticated

    bundling; 3. both transhipment costs (and time) and link costs (and time)

    decrease, or; 4. transhipment costs increase due to sophisticated bundling

    operations, while link costs decrease due to bundling. Taken together, however, the costs decrease.

    3.4 A static terminal process evaluation method

    From the d...

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