International Rail

International Rail

Intermodal freight transport involves the transportation of freight in an intermodal container or vehicle, using multiple modes of transportation (e.g., rail, ship, and truck), without any handling of the freight itself when changing modes. This results in lower cargo-handling costs while improving security, and reducing damages and losses. 

 Intermodal rail — the transportation of shipping containers and truck trailers by rail — enables railroads to provide their customers with cost-effective, environmentally friendly service for almost anything that can be loaded into a truck or a container. Shippers benefit from the flexible service that trucks provide, at the competitive rates that only rail intermodal can offer. The general public benefits from a reduction in highway congestion and harmful emissions and from the reduced cost of moving goods to market via intermodal. 

 Starting with the advent of the modern shipping container in the 1950s, freight railroads in the US have invested heavily to build a world-class intermodal rail network. Rail-owned, US domestic containers comprise nearly one-third of the total domestic container population. 

 The vast bulk of these containers have been in two fleets: 

EMP, a domestic interline container program created by Union Pacific Railroad and Norfolk Southern Railway; and UMAX, a domestic interline container program created by CSX Intermodal and Union Pacific, which provides customers access to thousands of 53-foot containers for intermodal marketing companies, motor carriers, freight brokers, truckload, parcel, and less-than-truckload customers.

 The remaining two-thirds of the fleet are privately owned units, operated by such companies as J.B. Hunt, Hub Group, and the like. The rail-owned fleets cater to non-asset carriers, while the private fleets are typically operated by integrated intermodal carriers.

New and expanded intermodal terminals at ports and inland are using advanced technologies to transfer containers to and from trucks in minutes. Additional track capacity and advanced signaling systems allow for faster, more frequent intermodal trains. Bridge and tunnel improvements accommodate the additional height required by double-stack trains.

Timely JOC coverage of this sector provides the latest news, data and analysis about how such developments are affecting not only the intermodal rail sector itself, but also impacting shippers, transportation service providers and other stakeholders in the US and elsewhere around the world.

Commentary

On the surface, China’s Asia-Europe rail subsidies seem like a slam-dunk win for shippers, a free lunch. But as the axiom states, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” And that axiom applies to international shipping as well.

News & Analysis

08 Nov 2019
Inland container depot movement by train has steadily gained traction over the past three months at India’s JNPT in the wake of a more collaborative rail arrangement sealed between the port and terminal stakeholders.
24 Oct 2019
The third blockage this year of the main rail line into the Mexican Port of Lázaro Cárdenas, which is operated by Kansas City Southern of Mexico (KCSM) will likely add to shipper fears that moving cargo by rail is unreliable.
27 Sep 2019
Hyundai Merchant Marine has set up weekly block train operations from India’s Bharat Mumbai Container Terminals to a key northern India hinterland point; the service launched this week with a 90-TEU railcar.
12 Sep 2019
Trains began running again into the Mexican Port of Lazaro Cardenas Thursday, two days after protestors halted train traffic at the port, raising anew concerns of reliability of the country’s railroad system in moving freight.
12 Sep 2019
Growth in container volumes and efficiency enhancements at key border crossings should contribute to a strong, but relatively smooth peak season for rail service between China and Europe.
03 Sep 2019
The president of Mexico said work is continuing on a project to create a modern, efficient freight-moving operation by rail across the narrowest stretch of Mexico, which links ports on the Pacific and Gulf coasts.
12 Aug 2019
Sponsored: CN president and CEO JJ Ruest discusses working with customers on individual priorities and investing in both talent and, at the Port of Vancouver, rail expansion with the Centerm and GCT Vanterm projects.
22 Jul 2019
Kansas City Southern’s cross-border intermodal rail volumes increased in the second quarter amid truck delays, but the railroad’s intermodal business as a whole struggled to compete with a lower-priced trucking sector.
China-Europe rail services cut transit times
02 Jul 2019
Despite huge growth in container volume transported by rail between China and Europe, the journey time is decreasing as services become more efficient.
26 Jun 2019
CMA CGM’s latest rail investment in India continues to tap into the country’s emerging inland market.
18 Jun 2019
Concor looks to potentially expand its short-sea network, even beyond India. It has its eyes on the Bangladesh transshipment market.
10 Jun 2019
The new expanded intermodal rail yard has reopened at the Port of Virginia, doubling capacity for CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern. The port says this means quicker transfers from ships to trains.
21 May 2019
The massive expansion of Mexico’s second largest port will include a second rail line that will allow direct access for Kansas City Southern of Mexico in addition to Ferrosur at present.
08 May 2019
Coastal transshipment at Indian ports has grown considerably since the relaxation of cabotage rules, but detractors argue that privately operated minor ports have reaped more of the benefits than their publicly run counterparts.
23 Apr 2019
India’s largest freight rail operator will maintain its current pricing through March 31, 2020, as part of a greater effort to encourage containerized rail movements throughout the country.
18 Apr 2019
Kansas City Southern (KCS) reported a decline in first-quarter intermodal volumes due to the teacher blockade that stopped cargo going in and out of the port of Lazaro Cardenas by rail.
10 Apr 2019
Ohio-based intermodal services company COFC Logistics is launching two intermodal services that will move 53-foot containers northbound from Mexico City as trucking capacity tightens and cargo volumes increase.
Greg Knowler, senior editor, JOC
08 Apr 2019
Greg Knowler, senior editor, JO
04 Apr 2019
After a nationwide trucker strike last May, transportation providers like Maersk and Brazilian railroad Brado are taking a multimodal approach to avoid becoming overly dependent on a volatile trucking market.
14 Mar 2019
The French ocean carrier’s latest intermodal offering aligns with its strategic goal of offering more integrated supply chain services, as well as an Indian government goal to convert more container cargo from truck to rail.
12 Mar 2019
Dallas cargo owners will lose a rail option to Houston in late April
26 Feb 2019
Rising demand on its Asia-Europe express network is seeing UPS make some big investments in infrastructure and aircraft capacity to keep up.
12 Feb 2019
Kansas City Southern has resumed service after protesters lifted a blockade that had shut down lines to and from Mexico's two largest ports.
04 Feb 2019
Concor has entered into a strategic cooperation deal with Russia’s JSC RZD Logistics.
Freight at a rail yard.
30 Jan 2019
Security and service problems face Mexico's intermodal sector as it seeks to expand its share of the reefer market.
Container stacked at a port.
23 Jan 2019
The closure of rail lines at the two biggest ports on Mexico's Gulf Coast is shutting down supplies to manufacturers.
An intermodal train.
18 Jan 2019
Amid tightening Mexican truck capacity, rail has an opportunity to attract smaller shippers.
An intermodal train travels in Mexico.
16 Jan 2019
Truckers and equipment providers in Mexico should find it easier to lease intermodal equipment if the country's first uniform interchange agreement goes ahead.
Big Port of St. Petersburg, Russia.
03 Jan 2019
Shortages in rail equipment, as well as dry and refrigerated containers, are increasing pressure on exporter operations.
Port of Veracruz.
02 Jan 2019
Mexico faces a wealth of uncertainty as it enters 2019, but it is unlikely to unravel the trade sector’s strength.
Freight rail cars.
17 Dec 2018
For the past few months, nearly 900 TEU of Dhaka ICD-bound containers remained delayed at the port, daily.
A freight train in China.
20 Nov 2018
The network has evolved from a series of single shipper-driven services to more than 50, and a unique rail advantage, along with growing national economies, is at the core of the uptrend.