For capacity, energy and environmental reasons, intermodal transportation is widely regarded as the preferable option for inland freight distribution. But because of the relatively high embedded costs, intermodal rail is currently only an attractive option for containerized goods carried over long distances. Transfers that in theory should entail only a few operations at a terminal in reality require multiple operations. This paper argues that by incorporating new terminal designs and an automated transfer management system (ATMS) at terminals and distribution centers, the resulting efficiency advances and productivity gains could significantly improve the economics for both long and short haul intermodal movements, including port shuttle trains. This system not only could significantly lower fixed costs and make intermodal more price competitive, but improve time and reliability to make intermodal more service competitive as well.


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