AGORA Final Conference on “efficient interfaces for modal shift”

Intermodal terminals are decisive for the growth of intermodal transport since they facilitate the physical interfacing between different transport modes and often moderate the interests of intermodal stakeholders. The final conference convened 40 high level experts involved in intermodal transport of Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxemburg, Romania, Switzerland, Slovakia and The Netherlands.

The exchange of experiences performed in the framework of the Marco Polo Common Learning Project AGORA is important to improve business and competitiveness of intermodal rail-road-waterway transport towards road. The conference demonstrated the success of the sector, the work achieved by the AGORA terminals and the need and commitment of the partners to continue their cooperation in the true meaning of the word AGORA – which stands for the “market place for exchange of information and opinion”.


“Efficient Interfaces for modal shift” – framework presentation (1007KB)
conducted by Uwe Sondermann (KombiConsult) in English includes the moderators tools to bridge between the presentations.

Marco Polo New ways to a green horizon by Denise Kwantes (EACI) (524KB)
Ms Denise Kwantes, officer at the European Executive Agency for Competitiveness & Innovation (EACI), describes the different actions of the Marco Polo Programme and the expectations on the Common Learning Action on intermodal terminals. AGORA should improve the management capabilities of terminals, increase their capacity and quality by operational measures, and create awareness of the capacity enlargement need in Europe.

Terminals are key to intermodal growth

Political expectations on the intermodal industry were expressed in the key note speech by Dr. Sabine Groner-Weber, Head of Unit for Research and Transport in the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development of Germany. According to her, the Federal Government intends to combine all modes of transport so that efficient chains can be organised by the stakeholders. Measures are documented in the “Masterplan Freight Transport and Logistics” that composes 5 objectives and 33 measures which should facilitate management of the forecasted increase of freight transport in Germany by 70% until 2025.
With respect to intermodal transport in Germany a total of 92 million tonnes were transported in 2009 of which 70 million tonnes were realised by rail and 22 million tonnes on inland waterways. New builds and enlargement measures in intermodal terminals were supported by Euro 80 million in the last year. The success of that funding scheme is obvious for the stakeholders and is currently evaluated scientifically.

Report on Combined Transport in Europe 2010 (1.0 MB)
Sandra Gehenot, Senior Freight Advisor of the International Union of Railways (UIC) presented – for the first time in public audience – the recent (3rd) “Report on Combined Transport in Europe 2010”, which is the only report with market data on the entire intermodal industry in Europe and a profound statistical basis. In 2009 a total of 154.5 million tonnes of goods were transported in unaccompanied intermodal services. 55% or 84.5 million tonnes in seaport hinterland and 45% or 70 million tonnes in continental services. Projections for the most likely increase of the volume of intermodal transport by 20% in the next two years were concluded and define the challenge for the intermodal stakeholders including terminal operators.

The “Report on Combined Transport in Europe 2010” will become available in December 2010 at

The discussion moderated by Rainer Mertel, Managing Director of KombiConsult, involved the political stakeholers and showed a general interest in any form of improvement of the intermodal transport in Europe by infrastructure investments, coordination of corridor interest and improvement of the facilitators of modal shift, the European terminals, which have counted for more than 25 million transport related handlings in intermodal rail road terminals in the hinterland.

Good practices for the management of intermodal terminals

Good practices on the increase of terminal capacity have already been discussed in the first seminar in Wien, and are documented in the online “good practices manual” so that we could concentrate on exemplary measures to increase efficiency, today.

Access with momentum (464KB)
Access with momentum or “Schwungeinfahrt” in German language is one good practice that the train can enter much earlier, providing the loading units for pick-up in short notice after the train arrival and – if trains can also directly leave from the transshipment track by electric traction – allow last moment delivery towards outgoing train services prior to their departure. Robert Groiss, Managing Director of WienCont, explains the infrastructural and operational conditions on the example of his Wien-Freudenau terminal.

Automatic equipment identification and documentation (2.5 MB)
How loading units and wagons can be identified and documented after the train arrival – and at the truck gate – was demonstrated by the “film-like” presentation of Johan Gemels, General Manger Terminal at Interferryboats, that was jointly prepared with Ben Beirnaert, Managing Director of Combinant. To resume: it works faster, more reliable and in better working conditions (office rather than between the tracks) compared to the conventional practice. The documentation allows liability management so that the investment is paid-off in due time.

Swap-Body and Semi-Trailer identification by the new ILU-Code EN13044 (229KB)
“October 29th was a good day for intermodality in Europe!” resumed Uwe Sondermann, Vice President of KombiConsult, when explaining the merits of the re-invented code for identification of Swap Bodies and Semi-Trailers that is now compatible with the BIC-Code for containers and make operations easier for all actors in continental intermodal transport chains in Europe. AGORA partners will continue in promoting implementing the new code.

Geo-referenced positioning of moble equipment in terminals (672KB)
Terminal Management System can be exploited fully only in case that all handlings are included. While the railmounted gantry crane movements can be depicted more easily – for the time being – mobile equipment like Reach Stackers’ and Terminal trucks’s movements remain invisible. With the system presented by Erich Possegger, Head of Unit Terminals of RCA, and Ulrich Altmann, Managing Director of Neuss Trimodal, that derived from a joint research collaboration, it is possible to monitor the movements and thus the position of any container handled.

Incentives for the use of terminal services (327KB)
Roland Klein, Managing Director of KTL Ludwigshafen, explained how the use of transshipment slots and the intermediate storage area – two valuable terminal assets – can be managed by a bonus-malus-system that favours those intermodal users which act according to the jointly agreed planning, and – in turn – directs the costs to those which consume the terminal capacity more. The objective is to bring the terminal to an optimal usage.

Improvement of quality of service by “discipline” (408KB)
With an ever increasing number of stakeholders: rail infrastructure managers, railway undertakings and intermodal operators, the assignment of terminal slots and their proper execution becomes an issue. With chain mangement – “Ketenregie” in Dutch language – ten “golden” rules defining clear resoinsibilities were agreed upon pilot actors in the Port of Rotterdam and the punctuality could be increased significantly. Uwe Sondermann presented the issue instead of Cor Hoenders, Managing Director of RSC Rotterdam who could not attend the meeting.

Check-in procedures (392KB)
Daniel Jähn, responsible for terminals in the operations unit of Kombiverkehr, expressed the use and value added by check-in processes at the respective terminal gates where change of liability takes place between the road and the rail operators via the intermodal operator and terminal. A new handy-format brochure of Kombiverkehr explains the process in easy words.

The “check-in” brochure is available in German and English language at

Sustainable coordination of terminal improvements

Terminal Interest Group AGORA continues its work (104KB)
AGORA partners committed themselves to continue the good cooperation after the formal end of the Marco Polo project and created an interest group of terminal operating companies. The purpose is to exchange good practices, develop joint procedures and key performance indicators for intermodal terminals. The founding members are the AGORA partners. The group is supported by a secretariat performed by KombiConsult, Frankfurt am Main. Interested terminal operators may contact their colleagues of the AGORA terminals directly.

Benchmarking of intermodal terminals

Key performance indicators for measuring efficiency and quality of service (537KB)
The “work in progress” achieved so far by the AGORA partners was presented by Uwe Sondermann who explained the value added by key performance indicators in the scope of a continuous improvement process, to identify own shortcomings and to learn from the “best in class”. The experiences of AGORA partners are based on a handling capacity of 5.8 milion loading units and an actual traffic volume of 4.0 million loading units in the terminals directly managed by the companies. With RCA, IFB and Kombiverkehr additional experiences from terminals outside the group is brought in. The challenging work has led to a set of performace indicators which are updated continuously.

Closing remark

Uwe Sondermann concluded the meeting, thanked the participants for their contributions, the hosting partners UIC, Linz Service and Kombiverkehr for sharing the costs and wished the participants a save way home.

For questions please do not hesitate to contact the AGORA partners directly, or

Uwe Sondermann
KombiConsult GmbH
for the AGORA-Partners
phone +49.69.2443293172

The AGORA Common Learning Project is partly funded by the Marco Polo Programme of the European Commission.