Intermodal Chain

A new consortium is born for the modernization of the intermodal transport chain

The current needs of the intermodal chain of the Services they require optimization and transformation through decarbonization, digitization and automation. In this sense, companies SISTEM, AZVI, ARDANUY, SOLUTE and KIVNON, together with the research organizations Ceit-BRTA, ITCL, BISITE-USAL and US-FIDETIA, have formed a consortium with the objective of investigating ways and solutions for the modernization of the intermodal chain.


Intermodal Chain


More than 85% of world freight traffic is transported by sea and the geographical location of Spain makes it a strategic area in international transport and in the logistics platform of southern Europe.

About 60% of the country's exports and 85% of the country's imports pass through the ports of Spain, that is, 53% of Spanish foreign trade with the European Union and 96% with third countries. In addition, the activity of the state port system contributes close to 20% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the transport sector, which is equivalent to 1,1% of Spanish GDP.

In 2019, intermodal transport in Spain broke the growth trend of the previous six years by experiencing a decline of -1,2% in contrast to the global growth of freight transport in the same year (+ 3,3%). For its part, intermodal rail and maritime transport continued to rise (+ 4,5% and + 2,6%, respectively), while intermodal road transport suffered again (-10,1%).

The rail-maritime logistics intermodality is unbalanced, since almost 50% of rail freight transport originates or reaches a port, corresponding to 5,4% of the total merchandise that passes through Spanish ports, compared to 94,6 Remaining% transported by road. The share of land freight transport by rail in Spain accounts for only 2% of rail freight traffic in Europe.

Sustainability, digitization and automation

Although rail is currently one of the cleanest and most efficient modes of transport, the UIC / CER (International Union of Railways-Community of European Railways and Infrastructure Companies) sets the goal of reducing CO30 emissions by 2% by 2030 and achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050, making energy efficiency a priority.

Rail freight transport in Spain experienced a growth of + 2,7% in the ton-kilometers transported in 2018, however, the net tonnes transported suffered a slight contraction (-0,2%). This type of transport represents 5% of the total transport of goods in Spain, compared to 26% in Germany or 15% in Italy. In this context, the European Union indicates that the 30% quota at the European level must be reached by 2030 through the introduction of innovations.

Transport policies focused on the most sustainable modes, such as maritime and rail, enhance the railway connection as a key to the development of transport sustainability. Thus, the need arises for an efficient connection between container port terminals and their hinterland through railway networks, which has promoted the development of logistics infrastructures such as dry ports. In this sense, the maritime port extends its hinterland and favors maritime-land intermodality.

Logistics has become an interrelated process with multiple variables such as supply chains, production centers, platforms or distributed warehouses. In addition, the new world cases such as COVID-19 have changed consumer habits, which is why the use of algorithmies and artificial intelligence techniques is essential.

Technology and innovation for the modernization of the intermodal transport chain

The current needs of the intermodal chain require progress in terms of the optimization of the intermodal freight chain and the transformation of intermodal logistics through decarbonization, digitization and automation of logistics terminals through an intelligent integrating platform.

Thus, research is required in enabling technologies that contribute to significant advances in three fundamental pillars: sustainability, digitization and intelligent automation of intermodal processes, bringing with it benefits in the operation, efficiency and sustainability of the intermodal logistics sector, a key sector for the country in terms of regarding the import and export of goods.

In this context, a group of companies has formed a consortium whose objective is to investigate the different routes and solutions that could be developed towards a modernization of the intermodal chain, seeking its greater efficiency and increasing its competitive value. This consortium provides efficient rail services from AZVI and ARDANUY, sustainable infrastructures with SOLUTE solutions, solutions to automate services thanks to KIVNON and tools for the integration of information and optimized digitization of processes from the hand of SISTEM.

The consortium also has the contracting of four Research Organizations (OI): Ceit-BRTA (Multidisciplinary Research Technology Center belonging to the RVCT - Basque Science and Technology Network), ITCL (Technological Institute of Castilla y León), BISITE- USAL (Group of Bioinformatics, Intelligent Systems and Educational Technology of the University of Salamanca) and US-FIDETIA (Department of Electronic Technology of the University of Seville and Foundation for Research and Development of Information Technologies in Andalusia).

This ambitious project has seven objectives: to reduce CO2 emissions from the intermodal logistics chain, to develop a functional prototype of an autonomous vehicle for the transport of goods in the railway terminal, to investigate new systems and infrastructures for the generation and storage of renewable energy, investigate new advanced charging infrastructures for a fleet of autonomous vehicles, optimize the management of infrastructures and communications for the vehicles that coexist in an intermodal logistics terminal, optimize the management of operations in an intermodal logistics terminal and investigate advanced tools (such as big data , AI, blockchain or BPM) to achieve an integrative and intelligent platform model that digitizes and optimizes the management of logistics processes and operations.