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Higher loading gauges on the railway can be introduced comparatively easily and give better coordination between transportation modes and higher capacity for many loads, including consumer and forest products.
For many commodities, volume (rather than mass) limits how much can be loaded into today’s vehicles and load units. On the highways in Europe a vehicle height of 4.5 m or taller is permitted in five nations – Norway, Sweden, France, the United Kingdom and Ireland – which contributes to high capacity and efficiency in transportation. The nations in between, however, only permit up to 4.0 m height on the highways, which prevents through traffic with tall vehicles between France and Scandinavia. On the railways the maximum vehicle height in much of Europe is presently 4.65 m, but there is sufficient margin to normal overhead line height to permit 4.9 m or even taller vehicle height between Scandinavia and England via France. A new intermodal gauge, P/C 450 (2.60 m4.83 m), enables:
- 4.5 m high semitrailers on standard intermodal pocket wagons loaded by lifting (lo-lo)
- 4.0 m high semitrailers on flat wagons loaded across a ramp (ro-ro)
- 1.15 m high lumber packages stacked three high (+50 %) instead of two high.
With ro-ro loading instead of lifting the majority of the existing semitrailer and swap bodies, even without reinforcements, can be handled in intermodal transportation.
The new intermodal gauge P/C 450 was introduced in 2011 on the Øresund bridge and already fits in the Eurotunnel between France and England and on some lines in Sweden. Introduction of this gauge is proposed for an integral corridor between Norway, Sweden, northern France and England. Due to its narrow width this new intermodal gauge avoids many obstacles, and can thus be introduced comparatively easily. Surveying a pilot route from a major sawmill to its shipping port revealed zero stopping obstacles. With minor additional enlargement of the loading gauge through Belgium and northern France, a route would be opened to London for the most common European loading gauge, G2.
Intermodal coordination, intermodal development and wagonload development are described.