Continuous Improvement Track 1: Dedicated Services; Wagonload trains

The Challenge

The existing single wagonload services (SWL) of the traditional incumbent Railway Undertakings (RU) have been reporting a proportional decrease in volumes and losses (varying across Europe). This has led to the resulting modal shift from rail to road as has been witnessed across Europe. This is accompanied and further worsened by a reduction of specific wagon load infrastructure such as sidings and marshalling yards. This trend runs counter to European policy as stated in the 2011 White Paper where modal shift to rail for freight over 300km is planned to be 30% by 2030 and 50% by 2050.

To achieve these modal split targets, efficient singleload forwarding services by rail will be needed. To reverse the current negative trend a radically different and competitive approach is needed. Within this CIT it is aimed to take an existing SWL service, expand it through cooperation with partner companies and, together with Railway Undertakings within the consortium and other partner companies, produce an optimised, flexible, technologically advanced, and cost efficient transport offer.


This CIT will demonstrate measures to stop the current negative trend and to significantly enhance the attractiveness of this sustainable transport mode. This requires a major change of SWL‘s organisation, management, and marketing. The approach of this CIT will be based on the existing, promising example of a successful SWL operation (of which partners are included in the consortium) to create a European network solution to follow up and expand on these practices.

Further this CIT aims to develop new cooperation models between the different stakeholders in the SWL business and introduce improved IT tools that lead to a more efficient transport offer. This CIT will address the issue of efficient and lucrative single wagonload services in Europe and in doing so bring the missing piece to the Common European Rail System by taking its place among the other projects contributing to the vision of an open market in which trains can cross borders without stopping.


The current service as it stands is coordinated by Smart-Rail consortium member BD Rail Services who, in conjunction with three RUs, have commenced operations in the south of France. This offers the CIT the advantageous situation that it can make use of an already existing SWL operation. At a very early stage, the project has a corridor and service that can be used as a building block for further development and expansion.

This also gives a focus as to which geographical areas market-research should be carried out in, and provides the logical direction for routes into which to expand.

The current route offers a connecti on from Sélèstat – near the German border, to Belleville – north of Lyon (1). There are two weekly departures from each city with the current capacity limitations of the corridor being a train length of 750m and 1600 tonnes. An extension to this route commenced operation in March 2016 off ering a service to Fos-sur-Mer (2).

CIT 1 1&2

The project is now focusing on building international connections to Belgium, Germany and Switzerland (3) and new partners are actively being sought (4).

CIT 1 3&4
In terms of wagon tracing, BD Rail Services and their partners utilise QR codes attached to the side of wagons. The capability exists so that when scanned at an origin, destination, or an intermediate point, an automated email is forwarded to the customer informing them of the current location of the wagons. While the system is appropriate for the current level of service there is a need for this to evolve in order to take account of a larger number of clients, commodities, wagons and routes. This development will form a part of this CIT in conjunction with other Work Packages to ensure a consistent implementation and efficient use of resources.

Contact Railway Undertakings

SMART-RAIL aims to improve rail freight services offered to shippers, in terms of reliability, lead time, costs, flexibility and visibility. A part of this project focuses on addressing the needs of shippers who require less than block train services. As such, SMART-RAIL has created a form aimed to act as a neutral platform to put shippers in contact with suitable Railway Undertakings.

The operation of this service focuses on shippers with annual loads of 50,000 to 100,000 tonnes. Many of these do not currently use rail as a transport option and may be unaware of the offer that is available to them.

In order to reach out to these potential users, a simple query form has been created where the basic request can be input. This request will then be checked as to whether it can be served by the existing network. If this is not the case then the opportunity exists to approach further Railway Undertakings with a view to extending the network.

Upon filling in the request form you will be contacted by one of the project partners with an offer within two weeks.

Data that is submitted to the form will be kept confidential and used only for the purposes of assessing operational potential. No commercial information will be made available in Smart-Rail publications.

To go to the form please follow this link.