Cost-effectiveness and sustainability: what a combination

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Intermodality and combined transport travel at full speed

Definition and advantages

The intermodal transport is the movement of goods in one and the same loading unit or road vehicle, which uses successively two or more modes of transport without handling the goods themselves in changing modes.

In this sense, the intermodal transport’s concept is connected to the multimodal transport – that is, the transfer of goods using at least two different modes of transport –  and is linked to the definition of combined transport, which is principally carried out by rail, inland waterways, or by sea, with the beginning and ending by road.

The possibility to change / combine the mode of transport (road-rail, road-sea) makes the intermodal valid in several respects:

  • Possibility of transporting all kinds of goods, thanks to the standardization of the loading units, and therefore great flexibility in this regard
  • Rail freight is often more energy efficient, so “going green” in intermodal means moving freight costs less.
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Greater efficient – higher weights, punctuality, goods integrity, load unit compatibility



Intermodal and combined transport: Italy ranks first in Europe

According to the “2018 Report on combined transport in Europe” issued by the German Bsl Transportation Consultants on behalf of the Union Internationale des Chemins de Fer, accompanied intermodal transports (the so-called traveling highways), although having a relative importance at European level, see Italy at the top in Europe thanks to the connections with Germany and Austria. The same with regard to combined transport: in the last few years this sector has grown a lot, reaching 21.6% of the total rail freight transport, which instead has been stable for a decade.

According to the Eurostat 2018 report, in Europe the rail freight accounts for 17.4% of the total goods transported, while the road freight dominates with 76.4% and the river transport covers the remaining 6.2%. In Italy the rail freight accounts for 15% while the truck transport controls the remaining 85%.

Italy annually handles almost 60 thousand tons of goods by railway, a part of it, at least 33 thousand, refer to combined transport and to “all-train” services.

According to the stakeholders interviewed, BSL indicates an expected increase in rail transport in Europe over 5% in 2019 and 2020.

In light of our latest considerations on the One Belt, One Road initiative, these statistics offer further insights: will the challenges associated with the New Silk Road contribute to the growth of the intermodal transport and the combined transport in Europe?



Are you looking for international transport solutions that are economical and efficient? Contact us for advice on intermodal and combined transport!


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