Letter: New strategies for freight transport

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Sir: The response of Ian Brown, managing director of Railfreight Distribution (Letters, 22 December) to Christian Wolmar's article is inaccurate in setting out the situation on intermodal traffic in Europe which is growing fast. Piggyback traffic in Europe is certainly not declining in terms of tonneage carried.

The situation is confusing in that 'piggyback' is used on the Continent for all modes of international freight, in which the goods are loaded on to road vehicles which are put, either whole or in part, on railway wagons for the major part of the journey, then put back on to the road for delivery. This may be the whole lorry ('Rolling Motorway'), the complete trailer of an articulated lorry ('Semi-trailers'), or in swap-bodies or containers which are just boxes carried on articulated trailer flats ('Swap-bodies').

It is 'swap-bodies' which are declining, from 64 per cent in 1989 to 62 per cent in 1991 of total international traffic in Europe. In Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands, it is precisely by using shuttle trains carrying the loaded lorry, either in whole or just the trailer, that a major effort (new lines costing pounds 5 billion) is being made to capture freight carried by road haulage. This solution could be adopted in the South-east of this country, threatened by thundering fleets of transient juggernauts.

An hourly shuttle carrying standard articulated trailers on railway wagons, piggyback (as used in this country), could take another 400,000 lorry movements off Britain's roads, even more if routed by ports as well as the tunnel. It is this shuttle concept that needs independent investigation.

Yours sincerely,


British Road/Rail Intermodal

Trunk Route Association

Hollingbourne, Kent