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Only beaming cargo is better – From China to Europe in 8 days via rail?

The growing demand for road freight is a threat to the European and Chinese road networks. More traffic on roads equals an increase of CO2 emissions , traffic congestion, and accidents. Hence, societies face high external costs due to the imbalance of the modal split. If companies would like to shift freight from road to rail, semi-trailers (73% of the market share) need specialized equipment. The CargoBeamer system opens up the railway market to all semi-trailers, allowing the shift of cargo from road to rail to happen today.

European transport demand

Demand for freight transport in billion ton kilometers in Germany from 1950 to 2020; Source CargoBeamer AG

The European freight performance of trucks carrying semi-trailers is 318 billion ton kilometers (tkm) per year or 72,4% market share of all road transport in 2015. An analysis of the Alpine crossing done by the Suisse Kanton URI uncovers that Silo (4,7%), Reefer 17,8%), Mega (7,3%) and Standard (52,9%) trailers would become compatible to efficient rail transport deploying the CargoBeamer system.

How does CargoBeamer’s technology function?

CargoBeamer’s technology incorporates a universal semi‐trailer loading ground plate, which serves as an adapter. The ground plate is shifted from road to rail and vice versa using mechanical arms built into the terminal. All road semi‐trailers fit onto these ground plates – at once, without any modifications. One main advantage is, that CargoBeamer is compatible with the existing terminal infrastructure, as portal cranes and reach stackers can lift the ground plates (adapters). Therefore customers can use all available, conventional terminals. However, the semi-automated, horizontal loading functionality only increases the annual throughput of a terminal, if there are at least a dozen loading bays installed.


Operating system of CargoBeamer AG; Source

On which routes is CargoBeamer operating?

All EU member states certified the technology. In 2013, the first operation was set up for Volkswagen AG between France and Germany to bundle inbound logistic flows on the rail. Between 2013 and 2016, 1738 mega trailers have been successfully shipped using CargoBeamer and 338,6 tons of CO2 have been saved. The service incurred 0 disruptions, and terminal availability was at 99,89%.


CargoBeamer’s terminal at Volkswagen in Wolfsburg Germany; Source CargoBeamer AG

The second transport route which has been launched in 2015 is the Alpine crossing from Cologne to Milano via the Gotthard tunnel. Starting at three roundtrips per week with 29 semi-trailers per train (550m), the company will expand operations in 2017 with 5-6 roundtrips per week and up to 34 semi-trailers per train (680m). If we assume that annual operations will occur in 52 weeks, with five roundtrips per week at 90% utilization (30 semi-trailers), CargoBeamer has the capacity to shift 7.800 loading units from road to rail – in one year.


Double traction by BLS Cargo on the railway service from Germany to Italy; Source CargoBeamer AG

However, the company is conservative to advertise an extensive European network. Too often, expansion plans have been put on hold. In densely populated and industrialized urban areas, it is not trivial to identify and lease suitable land to construct terminals. CargoBeamer had to learn the hard way, when the company was aiming to acquire a piece of land in Hagen, Germany. Local citizens protested.

What are CargoBeamer’s expansion plans in China?

That is why CargoBeamer is not only trying to enter the European market, but they now have started to plant seeds in China. CargoBeamer is proposing an entire transportation system for the New Silk Road and it’s Belt (railway) corridor. The company claims to accelerate the transition between rail gauge interfaces and aims to reduce the complexity of operations, due to the semi-automated cargo processing of freight.

New Silk Road Railway and RoRo Ferry Network; Source CargoBeamer AG

To enter the New Silk Road market, the company has further developed and optimized its system. Particularly interesting is the development of a high volume land container which has been designed for robot-based un-/loading. It is the perfect fit for the needs of automotive and e-commerce. The optimal usage of loading space would guarantee to fit 88 standardized industrial boxes onto a single rail car with a length of 19 meters. Compared to a 40-foot container, the CBoXX increases the transport weight by 80% and volume by 57% – which is why Volkswagen nominated CargoBeamer for the “Top 10 Innovative Supplier” award in 2015.


CargoBeamer’s CBoXX loading unit design for optimized overland freight; Source CargoBeamer AG

Looking at the New Silk Road, goods from the production sites in China are shipped to the end consumer in Europe using containers. The loading procedure is high manual and not automated. Furthermore, every container needs to be craned at least four times. This not only slows down the transport speed but also increases operating costs.


Traditional door-to-door railway transport chain from China to Europe; Source CargoBeamer AG

CargoBeamer automizes this transport chain. Six manual handling processes are reduced to four fully automated steps, resulting in a significant cost and time reduction. As the un-/loading of the CBoXX is robot-based no manual commissioning is required. The rail gauge switch between China and Kazakhstan as well as Russia and Europe is fully automated as well.

new_silk_road_cargobeamer CargoBeamer’s system reduces and automates the Transeurasian shipment; Source CargoBeamer AG

For freight forwarders, costs are one of the most significant drivers in choosing the mode of transportation. And CargoBeamer’s CBoXX makes rail transportation incredibly attractive to them. The company claims that the system cuts transport costs by 50% per load unit – compared to a standard 40-foot container. For an industrial box used in the automotive industry, the assumed price is 72.00 € for sending supplies from China to Europe via rail. CargoBeamer forecasts a cost of 36.00€ with their system, mainly due to the elimination of manual labor and reductions for the terminal, road, and rail transport costs.

transport_costs_cargobeamerEstimated transport costs of CargoBeamer’s CBoXX from China to Europe; Source CargoBeamer AG

The second important driver is the speed of delivery. Door-to-door shipments via ocean vessels take up to 45 days from China to Europe, including last-mile operations and terminal handling. Container trains already shorten the time by 60% and achieve a door-to-door delivery in 18 days. Due to time savings of terminal and rail gauge switching as well as the reduction in last-mile operation and robot loading of CBoXX, CargoBeamer forecasts to reduce the transfer time to 12 days. After completion of upgrades to the railway network in Russia and Kazakhstan – which are currently ongoing – CargoBeamer envisions a train to run at 70 km/h and achieve the door-to-door transport from China to Europe within eight days – nothing short of revolutionary and a real threat to sea and air freight.

transport_time_cargobeamerEstimated transport time of CargoBeamer’s CBoXX from China to Europe; Source CargoBeamer AG

What is the environmental impact today?

Back to reality, CargoBeamer is an innovation which enables environmentally friendly rail/road transports as you read this.  The CargoBeamer intermodal transport system opens up rail transports for all semi‐trailers, offers modular and ƒcompact terminals which have a high throughput and can automize the gauge switch. CargoBeamer not only brings high benefits for logistic companies. Each semi-trailer send by train reduces road wear, accidents and traffic jams which amounts to annual savings of 3,6 Mio. € for one train set. This is taxpayers money that can be rebudgeted for infrastructure investments. Furthermore, electric locomotives can use renewable energy – but even without using renewables – the energy consumption is reduced by 70% while emissions are cut by 76% compare to road freight. So if you are looking forward to booking environmentally friendly transports today, look no further and connect with CargoBeamer.

A digital revolution coming down the freight-rail track 284w" sizes="(max-width: 620px) 100vw, 620px">

Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of coal a day rumbling out of 50 mines, along a network of some 2,700 kilometres of heavy-haul track to three coastal hubs for export. Aurizon’s Central Queensland Coal Network (CQCN) is one of the largest coal rail networks in the world. It carries dozens of trains running mine to port and port to mine—around 85 services daily—aiming to synch with the movements of ships bound for Japan, China, South Korea, India and Taiwan. Now, consider that most of that rail line is single track. Let’s pull over for a moment.

This month, Aurizon announced successful implementation of GE Transportation’s', 'Movement Planner ');">Movement Planner into its Rockhampton control centre. It’s the first digitisation phase of the company’s broader Advanced Planning and Execution System (APEX), which will optimise functionality and enable increased transport volumes. Freight-rail infrastructure can cost around $5 million per kilometre to build, so before expanding networks to provide for growing demand, rail operators are increasingly seeking to optimise traffic on the track they have.

“We looked for a system that would assist in unlocking latent capacity in our network and support our network controllers to deliver better customer service,” says Clay McDonald, vice president, Commercial, at Aurizon Network.

“Movement Planner was selected by Aurizon as part of a global tendering and search process that sought a solution that delivered value to our customers and enabled improved performance of our Network operations into the future,” he adds.

Network complexity increases by the tonne

Forecast increases in travelling tonnage require greater complexity of movements within the system. And it’s not just a question of avoiding bumper-to-bumper stand-offs between sometimes two-kilometre-long trains on one-track line. The burden of fuel costs demands that, as much as possible, trains should maintain steady velocity on their journey—it takes a lot of diesel and electricity to get a train consisting of 100-plus 106-tonne coal wagons up to speed again after it’s been sat in a siding to let another loco haul on by.

The rail lines of Aurizon’s Central Queensland Coal Network (CQCN). In August Aurizon implemented the first phase of digitising and optimising train movements using GE’s advanced Movement Planner solution. Image: Aurizon

Until recently Aurizon’s network controllers used paper-based systems and diagrams for planning and recording train movements. The nine network hubs, including Goonyella West, Blackwater South, Newlands and Moura, are now digitally represented on screens for each controller by GE’s Movement Planner, an advanced software solution that provides real-time interactive overview of the system. It considers multiple factors including train schedules, train movements relative to each other, options posed by junctions and sidings and alternate routes, and develops an optimised traffic plan for the trains running throughout the network, offering visibility 12 hours into the future.

“The tool allows controllers to consider train movements and the impact their decisions may have prior to making them.”

“We now have all nine control boards linked up,” says McDonald of this milestone in a rollout of digitisation that began in April. “The effects of a change in one region can immediately be seen in the adjacent region. The tool allows controllers to consider train movements and the impact their decisions may have prior to making them.”

Aurizon network controller, Emma Irvine, and network manager, Tamara Wood, with Aurizon’s implementation of Movement Planner, which enables them to visualise the CQCN in real time, and test options for routing and planning train movements before implementing decisions that can have multiple knock-on effects. Photo: Aurizon.

Aurizon has become a top-50 ASX company since it was first floated on the exchange in November 2010 (when it was known as QR National). Originally part of Queensland Rail, the freight assets were transferred to QR National in 2004. Rebranded Aurizon in 2012, the company, which now employs some 7,000 people, has expanded to provide integrated freight transport solutions on rail and road networks that traverse coastal areas from Cairns in Queensland to Geraldton in the West.

Integrating data into a digital system for Central Queensland operations posed some challenges. Among them, a legacy of mapping and infrastructure from the days when the track was developed over decades by Queensland Rail. Employees used to joke that they had to deal with the concept of long kilometres and short kilometres, sections of track that had originally not been accurately measured.

“When you’re talking about an automated system, you have to be accurate,” says Claire Pierce, Aurizon account director at GE Transportation. “You have to know exactly how far it is from one crewing point to the next, between one siding and the next, and how long each siding is. So there was a lot of collaboration in working through those anomalies in data.”

Software enables decisions with foresight

This first module of Movement Planner is known as “Network Viewer”.  Pierce explains, “It will tell you there’s going to be a conflict between two trains at 1 o’clock, and the controller needs to decide which one needs to go first.” But, as McDonald touched on, using Movement Planner the controller can test various scenarios before actually implementing any particular option.

“Remember,” says Pierce, “that train that gets right of way, or that train that’s sitting in the siding, will experience follow-on impacts with the next train it meets and the next train after that, so there’s this ripple effect across the network. But the system will calculate that for you, and you can explore options to find the best outcome for the overall network.”

McDonald says, “Controllers have appreciated the ability to look 12 hours into the future, and to spend more time on planning rather than manually recording past train movements.”

Movement Planner also allows greater transparency of reporting to customers on those past movements and why certain decisions may have been made. The rolling stock on the network is variously owned, by transport companies, by coal companies and by Aurizon itself and, understandably, on a one-track line conflicts of interest can arise. Movement Planner will allow miners, shipping companies and other interested parties to see how the network is run to benefit the majority of stakeholders.

In freight for the long haul, Aurizon is optimising its Central Queensland Coal Network with GE Movement Planner advanced software. Benefits will include increased capacity and lower fuel consumption. Photo: Aurizon.

Over the next two years, Aurizon plans to add additional optimising modules to its Movement Planner software that will allow coding of a multitude of objectives into the system: these might include optimising fuel economy, meeting shipping schedules, avoiding potential over spend due to crew overtime and so on. Says Pierce, “There’s a whole bunch of reasons and variables that can be coded in so that the system decides which train gets priority in certain circumstances.” One train may be running late and need to make up time. Another may be running slow because there’s something wrong with the train and it will never make up the loss, so shouldn’t be allowed to block other trains from completing their journey on time. Whatever the situation, GE Movement Planner’s algorithms work to calculate the most advantageous outcomes according to the programmed objectives.

“We look forward to connecting the planning and scheduling module into Movement Planner,” says McDonald. “Our ongoing development of the software will provide controllers with decision support that considers all the factors and inputs required to deliver to plan.”

The benefits, as Aurizon moves to transform its operational efficiency through cutting-edge software solutions will include decreased delays, the ability for trains to travel at greater velocity, improved data collection on behalf of supply-chain stakeholders and potential for some 850 additional network paths—all without laying a single extra kilometre of track.

First freight train from China to Central Asia sets off

By  Trend


First freight train from China to the Central Asian countries took off on March 29, Tajik media reported citing the Xinhua news agency.

The freight train left off March 29 around 11:00 local time from Tapu station in Xinxiang city district in Henan province in the central part of China towards the five Central Asian countries.

The train leaving Xinxiang will run across the cities of Taiyuan, Yinchuan, Zhongwei, Wuwei, Urumqi, through the Alashankou crossing, cross the border with Kazakhstan at the Dostyk checkpoint and then go to Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

According to the schedule, the train will run once a week. Train consists of 50 cars, the annual volume of freight traffic is 150,000-200,000 tons.

The train is expected to gradually realize the "leaves full, returns full" program, sending mechanical equipment, rubber products, fireproof materials and other goods to the countries of Central Asia, and returning with various raw materials.

Trains: Moving American Goods More Efficiently, and More Safely Than Ever Before

Trains: Moving American Goods More Efficiently, and More Safely Than Ever Before  


Trains have a romantic attachment to America’s past. From the building of the first transcontinental railroad, to the thousands of towns that sprung up at important track junctures, trains were an essential part of the development of the country. Today, more freight than ever is moved by rail, as trains more than a mile long pull thousands of tons of raw materials and finished products across the country. While today’s trains may not look that different from those that ran down the same tracks two decades ago, technology has played a remarkable role in making rail transport more efficient and safer than ever before.

According to Department of Transportation statistics, rail freight shipments are projected to increase by 41 percent by 2040. In anticipation of this growth, railroad companies across the country have been making significant reinvestments in their rail systems, spending around $100 billion in just the last four years.

“America is home to the greatest freight rail network in the world, and we are putting technology to work to keep it that way,” said Association of American Railroads (AAR) President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. “Next-generation innovations like drones, lasers and automated technologies are revolutionizing how we run a railroad.”

A new report issued by AAR shows how railroads are using cutting technology to better maintain and monitor both their trains and the tracks they run on. America has about 40,000 locomotives and more than 1.6 million railcars operating on 140,000-miles of rail. This is a lot to monitor at any given time. As a result, the industry has been turning more and more to technology to find ways to increase fuel efficiency, monitor wear on tracks and trains, and to better target areas of preventative maintenance.

“Technological advances, combined with ongoing private investment, uniquely position the freight rail industry to meet the most significant transportation challenges of the 21st century,” the AAR wrote in its report.

Railroads routinely use ultrasound technology to scan their rails in search of potential flaws in the metal which are then marked for replacement. They also use ground-penetrating radar to assess the condition of the ballast placed underneath the rails. Since 2008, mainline track accidents have dropped by 50 percent, in large part due to these and similar changes. The present accident rate is now at an all-time low.

However, the rails are only part of the equation when it comes to train safety. Just as important is the condition of the trains themselves. As sensors and even drones have become less expensive, railroads have also adopted them as a means of cheaply monitoring the condition of wheels, brakes, and axles as trains rush past. The use of machine imaging and scanning has advantages over the previous inspection system, which relied on people and was subject to human error.

The investments American railroads have made in technology have paid off in terms of fuel efficiency and reduced accident rates. According to the AAR report, over the last decade, the mainline train accident rate has fallen 32 percent. Railroads also doubled their average miles per gallon between 1980 and 2017, moving one ton of freight an average of 479 miles per gallon of fuel and increasing rail traffic 84 percent. All this occurred as overall tonnage hauled by rail also increased and emissions decreased.

As railroads update their existing fleets of diesel locomotives to “Tier 4” machines, which have even more advanced sensors and fuel efficiency programs, emissions are expected to drop even further–perhaps by as much as 90 percent, including a reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions by 80 percent.

“Railroads move approximately one-third of all U.S. exports and intercity freight volume in the United States,” the report says. “Despite the large volume of freight moved, U.S. EPA data show freight railroads only account for 0.5% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and just 2.0% of emissions from transportation-related sources.”

The idea of moving freight by rail may not be novel. That doesn’t mean that today’s railroads are not in a permanent state of innovation, always looking for ways to move more cargo more efficiently and more safely.

“This 200-year-old industry is poised to meet the challenges of tomorrow,” added Hamberger. “Building on the technology of today, such as Positive Train Control and Big Data analytics, the industry will continue to do what it has always done for the American economy – deliver.”

Xi'an launches China-Europe freight train service to Hamburg


A cargo train left Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, for Hamburg in Germany Friday night, local authorities said Saturday.

The train left Xi'an at 8:50 p.m. Friday and will pass through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland before reaching Hamburg, Xi'an international port authority said in a press release.

It said the journey will last 13 days.

The train carries machinery, home appliances, garments and electronic equipment, which will be forwarded from Hamburg to other European cities.

It is the second China-Europe freight train from Xi'an. The first left for Warsaw on Aug. 18.

The train will promote the further opening of Shaanxi Province, and help shape a new international trade route within the framework of China's Belt and Road Initiative, said Han Song, a senior official with Xi'an municipal committee of the Communist Party of China.

"In the future, there'll be an outbound train every week and an inbound train once a month," said Han.

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