The developments in the world economy and production, growth in demand and supply of consumer goods, resources and services etc., as well as presence globalization processes and ineffective work of old freight networks makes it necessary to form modern freight networks. The aim of forming new freight networks is to manage fast routing of big volumes of different kinds of goods and passengers. That is why the need for intermodal freight network modeling arises. Current paper analyzes freight network modeling and the problems associated with it.
There are two major issues that need to be decided in intermodal freight networks. First of them is how to describe transport network and its effect on different kinds of transport. The other one requires permanent analysis of intermodal transport network for improving its efficiency.
Merging different kinds of transport, for example rail, road transport and barge in one transport system, is very important. Advantages of intermodal transport include minimum damages that big transport volumes for a large distance hits to the nature and high efficiency of the road transport in end-haulage to receiver. According to UN/ECE (Priemus & Nijkamp, 2008), the intermodal freight transport is “the movement of goods in one and the same loading unit or road vehicle which uses successively two or more modes of transport without handling of the goods in changing modes” (pp. 206-207). Passenger and freight transportation have similar features; and the planning for both kinds of transportation have similar stages, such as calculation of the amount of cargo, regulation of traffic flow, definition of transport’s species, distribution of cargo, analysis of the traffic to compare against model’s work results.
Three types of transport planning are necessary to use for correct modeling of intermodal transport system: strategic planning, tactical planning, and operational planning. The tasks of operators in different parts of intermodal transport network are different. The task for the operator of road transport is to control trucks in pre- and end-haulage. The duty of the terminal operators is the distribution of the cargo to be further transported by appropriate kind of transportation. Control and organization of rail and barge transportation is the task of network operators. The operators of intermodal transport network organize the work of the whole transport network. Usage of different software tools is an important part of network operators’ work. “Strategic Planning of Freight Transportation: STAN, an Interactive Graphic System” is a software product that network operators use to handle their tasks when planning transportation of cargoes. Other software tool is NODUS, which is based on using the Geographical Information System. This product was developed by the Facultes Universitaires Catholiques de Mons, Transport and Mobility Group, and has made the work with large networks much easier.
Modeling of seaport hinterland traffic is one of the tasks that have to be solved in the course of intermodal freight network creation. Usage of a large number of containerized goods allows concentrating on container traffic in case of using sea transportation. The necessity of delivery the cargoes from seaport to hinterland makes it important to use all kinds of transport, including barge, truck and rail to reach this goal. Merging, for example, barge and rail transport in one network could be quite problematic since both of these transports are contestants in one and same segment of the market. This fact should be considered when modeling intermodal transport network.
Also, there is a need to pay attention to availability of the infrastructure for the different modes of transport. Existence of advanced infrastructure for all of transportation kinds makes the intermodal freight network more efficient. The road infrastructure is less problematic than others as it is standardized throughout Europe and road maps are readily available in digital form. Rail infrastructure is more problematic because of diversity of railroad characteristics in different countries. There are also difficulties in inland waterways despite the standardization in European water ways, such as the height of the bridges that limits the number of container stack.
Importance of intermodal freight network modeling is is difficult to overestimate. It is a multi level task that needs to consider various aspects of transportation modes and their availability and specifics across different countries. Yet, efficiency of intermodal freight network will depend on its ability to increase freight volumes and the speed of cargo delivery as well as to reduce the cost of transportation.