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Improvement of intermodal terminal freight operations at border crossing terminal

European Union
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Transport mode
Multimodal icon
Transport sectors
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

INTERFACE (Improvement of iNtermodal TERminal Freight operations At border Crossing tErminal) is an integrated shared cost project funded by the European Commission within the Fifth RTD Framework Programme (FP5) on “Competitive and Sustainable Growth”.

Intermodal Freight Terminals (IFT) or transfer points are places equipped for the transhipment and storage of Intermodal Transport Units (ITU). They connect at least two transport modes, which usually are road and rail, although waterborne (sea and inland waterways) and air transport can also be integrated. It is possible to find terminal companies and bodies handling both freight transport (eg. freight forwarders, shippers, transport operators, customs) and accompanying services (eg. storage, maintenance and repair): in this case IFT are also referred to as logistic centres or freight villages.

Terminals represent the nodal points of the intermodal transport network and their effi ciency significantly affects the entire intermodal freight transport chain. Efficient intermodal transport requires infrastructure planners and managers across Europe to co-operate in establishing coherent networks of efficient transfer points, which are the weakest links in the current intermodal transport system and a major generator of friction costs.

These costs are generated through many factors. First of all, there is a lack of a coherent network of modes and interconnections between the modes in a number of high density corridors in Europe. There is also inadequate access by rail, road or waterborne transport to existing transfer points, which can hamper the integration of these modes and transfer between modes. Another factor is the lack or inadequacy of interoperability between modes and loading units. In fact, dealing with a variety of loading unit dimensions and different standards for transport means and infrastructure (often regulated differently by country and by mode) lowers the levels of interoperability between different modes, and produces congestion and ineffi ciencies at terminals. Finally, present-day terminals, which are usually marked by a combination of heavy engineering and manual processes, are not managed effi ciently with appropriate ICT technologies.

The absence of a systematic network for data interchange along the entire intermodal transport chain is a sourc


INTERFACE aims at identifying and testing in a real environment (three demonstration sites are foreseen) innovative solutions to improve borders crossings terminals operations between EU and CEECs and inside EU for reducing customs waiting time, increase safety, harmonise regulations and to develop additional functions to accommodate certain border crossing terminals (such as regroupment, customs clearance, etc.) INTERFACE focuses not only on isolated solutions but also on combined solutions stressing their potential at different levels (technical, economical, organisational, etc.). The project will have for geographical frame the main European economical poles and high potential traffic corridors in order to make possible the adoption of demonstrated intermodal solutions to other sites.


The INTERFACE Workplan is oriented around seven dynamic activities’ platforms:

  1. analysis of the state of the art (Problems Definition and General Overview)
  2. case studies 
  3. identification of intermodal solutions (methodology)
  4. scenario analysis
  5. demonstrations in real environment and validation of the analysed solutions
  6. provision of guidelines and recommendations
  7. results and dissemination

The work plan is divided in eight work packages, responding to the achievement of the project scientific and technical objectives and creating logical links related to the addressed methodology.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy and Transport (DG TREN)
Type of funding
Public (EU)


The concepts developed and theoretically assessed within the research phase of the project have been tested, in a real environment through three “demonstrators”, in order to check the transferability of the results to other conditions and to define pre-conditions and supporting measures for the breakthrough. Each demonstrator has been set up using the following steps: ex-ante indicators evaluation, dedicated solutions simulation and ex-post indicators evaluation. Due to the complexity of the logistic chains in which the demonstrators are located, their implementation has been preceded by a “pilot test” to define the Actors’ responsibilities and the operational timing.Demonstrator 1 - Border crossing between Austria and Czech Republic (Breclav – Hohenau). The demonstration has been focused on the part Breclav-Hohenau, the stretch on the axis Vienna-Prague connecting the regions Weinviertel in Austria and Südmähren in the Czech Republic. Breclav terminal has the function of a railway node where the route from Vienna splits to Brno/Prague on the one side and Kraków/Warszawa (Poland) on the other side (crossing of Corridors IV and VI). Since structural and network constrains are not felt as main matters, in this site, the information exchange issues become more marked. Hence, demonstrator test the improvement of intermodal management procedures aiming to storing and delivering, to the end Users, real time information on freight status and location at reference network of Breclav terminal.Demonstrator 2 - Border crossing between Spain and France (Port Bou). The French-Spanish border has one usable rail border crossing in the East side: Cerbère-Port Bou. This demonstrator deals with the application of dedicated solutions aiming to apply new logistic concepts at Port Bou terminal. The differences between French and Spanish track gauge (infrastructural constrains) and maximum freight train length (network constrains) will not be managed neither in short or medium term. Therefore, improving transhipment plan and operational processes at the terminal become the only way to allow better transit time. The impacts of these concepts have been assessed in terms of reduction of ratio of transhipment time to total transit time. Demonstrator 3 - Border between Italy and Switzerland (Novara). The demonstration has concerned the Novara CIM intermodal terminal and the international lines linking it with the North of Europe (Novara – Domodossola via Borgomanero, Novara &#821

Technical Implications

Border waiting times were reduced from basically 82,5 minutes to 61,5 minutes in March 2005. The expected reduction of 30 minutes per train was not fully reached, but the impact of the improvements initiated by the AT-CZ demonstrator was significant for CT trains in both directions. The percentage of CT trains that leave Breclav station with a delay of less than 60 minutes increased significantly to 75%. Together with general improvements in slot allocation, engine provision and less technical imperfections the INTERFACE demonstrator measures led even to a situation, when almost 65% of all leaving CT trains have a delay of less than 30 minutes.

The share of enhance messages/pre-advises via the HERMES network is the central indicator for the quality of the modules to be implemented at ÖBB RCA. At final tests in March 2005 almost 99,5% of all HERMES 30 V1 messages in direction from ÖBB to CD were enhanced. According to latest on-site statistics from April 2005, the total time needed for commercial handling by the handling over RU were cut down to 37 minutes. This improvement was mainly influenced by the availability of improved information on intermodal transport train, leading to less needed manual data entry and faster processing of train documents

According to the latest available statistics out of March 2005, around 95% of all wagons heading form CZ to AT have been pre-advised and about 98% of all wagons from Austria to Czech Republic. In April 2005, 9 employees per shift have been involved in the border processes at Breclav station. In April 2005, about 31.000 wagons and 1347 trains have been processed – the Full-Time-Equivalent Productivity have been reduced from 100% to 66%. The ex-ante assumptions have been reached, but the productivity is strongly influenced by the reduction of crossing trains and wagons in Breclav.


General results and conclusions

The foreseen goals, defined within the ex-ante evaluation, have almost been reached (time-savings not fully)

The developed tools ensure a high quality in international information interchange in intermodal transport

§Policy implications
As the solution was dealing with the integration of standardised processes, enhanced data interchange between railway operators and provision of information to other actors – an easy adoption of the procedures developed could be achieved. That means: interfaces to/for other involved actors have to be customised but the core system (HERMES) must not be changed. It is very important to integrate of the whole IT scenery at the railway companies, in order to be able to provide reliable information on intermodal transport.

European rail undertakings, RU´s, are aiming to stick on established systems and solutions. The reason is that these procedures are not so expensive and are trying to maintain their operational processes. So, the existing systems and solutions shall be used as a base for the further improvement. Interfaces between already existing systems must be adapted to the specific situation.

The possibilities of transferring the solution were already shown in an impressing way by the two involved railway companies: ÖBB and CD use the developed tools already with most of their neighboring railways (ÖBB with Hungary, Slovakia, Germany and Italy; CD with Germany and Slovakia). This emphasizes the market potential of the dedicated solution: it has a high acceptability among all involved actors and it could be easily transferred to other locations or organizations. Besides that the better and more reliable information flows can enable a higher competition ability of railway transport as a shipping branch in generally.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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