The markets need longer and lighter wagons with fewer axles. This has been corroborated in a study commissioned by FERRMED. It corresponds with the intermodal market trend of using increasingly longer intermodal loading units. Indeed, in advanced and modern logistics, due to the transportation of finished and semi-finished products, the value of the cargo has increased and its density has decreased.
Project VEL-WAGON will be a milestone for the efficiency of intermodal freight wagons since it will demonstrate that fewer elements and less dead weight can result in the same or even more transport output. Coherently, the project will design a versatile platform element for a multi-purpose function and intermodal use that will bring about an important gain of flexibility, accessibility and efficiency of railway services.
The project will investigate the current status of the European freight railway market and, more importantly, it will look at the trend thereof and its associated logistics. In synchronisation, a wagon engineering activity will be launched for determining the final costs of a solution matching the market requirements.
The project will examine the limits of light wagon construction and the future infrastructure response to the everyday-more-challenging railway traffic. The investigation will be initiated with concrete wagon concepts to be examined, namely, 4-axle rigid platforms of 80 to 90 feet length. The outcome will be a compromised solution between economic aspects and technical constraints. Intentionally, the result will pave the way for further investigations of maximum allowable axle load in Europe, since, in respect to infrastructure solicitation, fewer axles with somewhat higher load may be equivalent to more axles with regular load. The research intention of VEL-WAGON is necessary for understanding and paving the way for the future European transportation sustainability.
The primary concept of VEL-WAGON is to increase the competitiveness of multi-modal freight transport by improving container wagons for intermodal transport. This resulted in a 80 ft VEL-WAGON with 4 axles. A simulation with the 80 ft. VEL-WAGON on the track Rotterdam - Milan shows that this is a profitable concept from a business perspective, especially for the maritime market. The business case of continental transport shows a positive yield as well. With the application of detachable superstructures, the VEL-WAGON could also perform at a slightly better level than habbins, the typical wagons for volumetric loads.
VEL-WAGON focuses on the market-driven demand for larger and lighter wagons. With the use of superstructures, these multi-use flat wagons are capable of transporting different freight types. This improves the applicability and creates a more effective loading process.
The results obtained from the simulation show lower costs per transported unit load:
- better loading factor of trains: 10% more TEU per length;
- up to 18% less energy consumption due to decreased rolling resistance, better aerodynamics and less deadweight;
- less maintenance;
- less noise;
Nowadays most containers have a length of 40 ft., but his might change to 45 ft in the future. This requires an adaption of the VEL-WAGON to 90 ft. in order to stack two containers, which might cause constructional problems. A reassessment on this topic is needed within 5 years.
There is no clear, EU-wide method to calculate the reduction coefficient for wagons that overpass the standards (like the VEL-WAGON), which complicates the certification process of new and more efficient rolling stock.
An efficient and integrated mobility system:
- A single European Transport Area
Innovating for the future, technology and behaviour:
- A European Transport Research and Innovation Policy
- Promoting more sustainable development
A similar innovative wagon, produced by Tatravagonka, has already been implemented by METRANS, but this involves just a commercial application, not the full version of VEL-WAGON.
The main obstacle for implementation is the limitation of the infrastructure when it comes to the loading gauge. In most cases the current loading gauge is sufficient, but the certification process is difficult due to the lack of a clear, EU-wide method.
Reassessment of the preferred length of the VEL-WAGON, depending on the most-used container length, is required.