An assessment of the performance of the European long intermodal freight trains (LIFTS)


Milan Janic

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - traffic, operations - performance, economics - operating costs, organisation - performance, place - europe, mode - rail


Transportation corridors, Traffic corridors, Technological innovations, Social costs, Regulatory policy, Railways, Railroads, Policy, Policies, Performance assessment, Operating costs, Long intermodal freight trains (LIFTS), Intermodal transportation, Intermodal systems, Government policy, Freight transportation, Externalities, Europe, Costs, Cost of operation, Corridors (Transportation), Advanced technology


Intermodal rail/road freight transport has always been considered as a competitive alternative to its road freight counterpart in the European medium- to long-distance corridors (markets). Such consideration has been based on the increasing competitiveness of some innovative rail services and the existing and prospective performance of both modes in terms of the full social - internal or operational and external - costs. The most recent innovation of rail technologies and related services launched by some European railway companies, still at the conceptual level, is the Long Intermodal Freight Train (LIFT). This is supposed to be a block train operating in long-distance corridors (markets) with a substantial and regular freight demand. This paper develops analytical models for assessing the performance of the LIFTs, the already-operating Conventional Intermodal Freight Trains (CIFTs), and their road counterpart as well. The performance consists of the full - internal (private) and external - costs of the door-to-door delivery of loading units - containers, swap-bodies, and semi-trailers. The internal costs embrace the operational costs of the transport (rail and road) and intermodal terminal operators. The external costs include the costs of the impacts of door-to-door delivery of loading units on society and the environment. These negative externalities include noise, air pollution, traffic accidents, and congestion. The models are applied to a simplified version of intermodal and road transport system using inputs from the European freight transport sector. The aims are to compare the full costs of particular modalities in order to investigate the potential of the LIFTs as compared with the CIFTs in improving the internal efficiency of the rail freight sector and its competitiveness with respect to its road counterpart. In addition, the paper attempts to assess some effects on the potential modal shift of European Union transport policies on internalizing transport externalities.


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