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

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.
Rotterdam port.
30 Oct 2018
The volume increases at Rotterdam and Antwerp come despite a steady decline in container imports from Asia that can be seen in the latest data from Container Trades Statistics.
A freight train travels across China.
29 Oct 2018
China is expected to begin enforcing a rule early in 2019 that will allow only full trains leaving for Europe to be subsidized, but judging from the industry reaction to the move, it is not expected to have much impact on the rapidly expanding network.
Samskip.
19 Oct 2018
The new Amsterdam link will provide greater service resilience for the Netherlands-Italy rail option, as the connections to the two Dutch ports will run on different routes, enabling a flexible response to any rail-related or port-related delays, according to Samskip UK trade manager David Besseling.
A freight train travels across China.
04 Oct 2018
China’s government has invested billions in the China-Europe rail network, and volume, propelled by subsidies, has surged. However, those subsidies have created other downsides for shippers and the broader market.
Russia Trans-Siberian Railroad.
02 Oct 2018
The new route connects the South Korean port of Busan and Russia’s port of St. Petersburg and involves the port of Vladivostok as a transit hub and then the Trans-Siberian Railway to move container cargo to Russia and other European destinations.
Rhine-Alpine Gateway.
02 Oct 2018
The Rhine-Alpine Gateway is one of Europe’s most important rail routes connecting the Mediterranean ports with the economic heartland of Central Europe, handling half of the trade between northern Europe and Italy via Switzerland.
China-Europe rail.
20 Sep 2018
The China-Europe rail services have been growing rapidly as shippers seek a price/time middle ground to that offered by costly-in-comparison and faster air cargo services to cheaper but slower ocean routing.
A freight train travels in Russia.
04 Sep 2018
Historically, Russia attracted Asia-Europe cargo largely destined for Northern Europe. But now Russia wants another piece of the Asia-Europe transport pie.
A freight train travels in Russia.
05 Aug 2018
China-to-Europe via Russia rail transport has been in an uptrend since 2013, and global growth and consumer trends point to even stronger growth ahead if rail officials can meet the infrastructure and related needs of shippers.
20 Jul 2018
E-commerce and high-speed rail are enabling China-Europe rail services to give the air cargo industry a run for its money.
16 Jul 2018
Asia-Europe shippers are looking more at southern European ports as intermodal bottlenecks slow container delivery through some of the big North Europe gateways.
A freight train in Russia approaches Moscow.
19 Apr 2018
Cargo can now make the East Russia-Europe trip in about six to seven days, as opposed to 10 to 11 days previously, owing to railway improvements that enable higher speeds.
A street in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
23 Mar 2018
Container Corporation of India Ltd.’s train will transport 60 TEU in its debut journey, which will be treated as a trial run. Officials will start regular service within two months, after removing any bottlenecks identified during the trial trip.
A freight train in Mexico.
08 Mar 2018
The Mexican agency probing allegations of a lack of competition in the country's railroad sector has dropped the case, saying there is insufficient proof.
A freight travels in northern Russia.
07 Mar 2018
According to railroad RZD, container cargo delivery time on the new rail route will be substantially shorter than sea transport.
Europe rail freight.
26 Feb 2018
The European Union is pushing further for rail freight development. In addition to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent, facilitating the free circulation of goods within Europe is part of the European Union's DNA. And the quality of inland transportation is a key success factor regarding port development.
Rail transport.
14 Feb 2018
The key north-south rail link is flowing again, after the section between Milan and Basel had been closed for two weeks, but challenges remain, as terminals work to clear a huge container backlog.
Russian rail transport.
12 Feb 2018
Russia would like more cargo containers transported by rail in the years ahead.
08 Feb 2018
Chinese shippers of fresh produce to Russia may soon have a cheaper option for transporting products to the Moscow markets as rail freight enters the picture.
06 Feb 2018
The improving economies of Central Asia are pushing up demand for rail freight across Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.
Belarus transit hub
01 Feb 2018
Not all shipping hubs are water-based. Land-locked Belarus is strategically positioned, geographically, to become a major transit hub for container cargo transported from China to the European Union via train and truck.
26 Jan 2018
The upgrade to the line is driven by the long-term outlook for refined product exports to Mexico, the company said.
02 Jan 2018
The company said the line, dubbed the Kathmandu Express, is designed to meet Nepal's growing import trade.
21 Dec 2017
The launch of the new route became possible only after the lifting of sanctions against Iran by the international community.
21 Dec 2017
The rails' inability to increase their market share over road could threaten public funding of the sector.
12 Dec 2017
HMM said in December that Samsung SDS, LG Electronics, Hyundai Glovis, and several other companies have expressed interest in Asia-Europe rail.
11 Dec 2017
Russian officials expect internet-based cargo bookings to account for up to 10 percent of bookings, perhaps more, in three years.