Polish project of innovative wagon may increase accessibility of intermodal transport
An innovative design of an intermodal wagon, which enables loading trucks or semi-trailers onto a wagon on a regular ramp, without complicated reloading systems, and also enables the transport of containers and assembly of installations for supplying cool units – this is an idea of Polish engineers for the popularisation of intermodal transport, presented on 7 June 2022 in Warsaw.
Shifting more loads from road to rail, which is one of the transport elements of the European Green Deal, is being hampered by a number of financial, organisational and technological barriers. One of the main problems is the fact that 79 per cent of goods moved within the European Union are carried by trucks with semi-trailers not suitable for transhipment using terminal equipment. Few of the intermodal terminals are equipped with systems for loading standard semi-trailers onto wagons. On the other hand, units adapted to vertical loading still constitute a small part of the equipment used by carriers.
However, high fuel prices and problems with the lack of drivers mean that more and more companies are interested in launching intermodal transport. However, containerisation and investments in intermodal semi-trailers require investment outlays by road hauliers. Another approach is to increase the possibility of rail in moving heavy goods vehicles by providing more places where it is possible to load vehicles or semi-trailers onto wagons. This option is offered by the concept of a modern intermodal wagon, which was presented on Wednesday, 7 June, in the Warsaw House of Technology.
The invention, developed by the team of Professor Dr. Habil. Eng. Mirosław Nader and Dr. Eng. Stanisław Nader, will enable the loading of semi-trailer trucks, containers or semi-trailers onto wagons on ordinary railway ramps. For this purpose, it is not necessary to adapt the intermodal terminal or to invest in special handling equipment, as is the case with currently used systems. It is enough to provide a ramp of an appropriate height, and the loading or unloading will be done by the wagons themselves. The intermodal transport system proposed by Polish engineers includes two concepts of wagons: one for the transport of semi-trailer trucks or containers, the other for the transport of semi-trailers and containers. The discussed solution is an extension of the idea presented in 2009, which was patented in 2013, but initially it did not meet with the great interest of entrepreneurs or rolling stock companies.
“The solution proposed in the patent was ahead of its time and there were no brave people who would make the decision to invest in the invention. Currently, in connection with the development of intermodal transport, benefits such as reduction of C02 emissions and noise, or lower consumption of road infrastructure are more and more often perceived, hence the greater interest in technologies enabling the transfer of loads from roads to rails,” commented Mirosław Nader at the presentation of the project.
Currently, work is underway on projects of wagons involving Vis Systems and APS Energia. The project assumes horizontal loading with the use of elements retractable from the wagons. As a result, the transfer of trucks or semi-trailers to and from the wagon will be possible on ordinary railway ramps. This will increase the availability of intermodal transport.
“Loading of vehicles or semi-trailers onto wagons in the system we have proposed takes less time than in other solutions currently used, which will bring significant savings to carriers. Moreover, the wagons will have universal applications. It will be possible to use them not only for the transport of semi-trailers or semi-trailer trucks but also containers,” assured Stanisław Nader.
Ecological cold stores
It is planned to enable the use of innovative wagons for the transport of electrically-powered refrigerated containers. Currently, the lack of rolling stock equipped with a cooling container supply system is a significant barrier to the development of intermodal transport in Europe because only cool containers with diesel aggregates are currently available, whose environmental performance is debatable. Meanwhile, temperature-controlled products constitute a very important volume of cargo transported inside Europe. APS Energia, the Poland-based energy company, proposed several concepts of the power supply system using the so-called “master wagons” with converters that, depending on the concept, can supply five or 10 refrigerated containers.
In the coming years, simulation studies and design works will be carried out with the aim to make the project ready for commercial implementation and obtain approval. “A considerable challenge for the design team is to fit the wagon and semi-trailer truck within the adopted gauge. Due to the large dimensions of the loads, there is little space left for the location of various structural elements of the wagons. We assume, however, that the design work should last about three years,” assured Zdzisław Kotowski, vice president of Vis Systems.
The wagons will be able to be fitted with sensors and be integrated with the Internet of Things tools and the IT system for fleet management and transport organisation. These additional utilities will be introduced depending on the needs of carriers and rolling stock manufacturers. In the longer term, designers are considering the development of a wagon that, in addition to intermodal units, could transport military vehicles. Such a wagon would be equipped with three-axle bogies.