Intermodal V/s Multimodal Transport System: Similar But Not Same

In today’s smart cities, connecting destinations faster and seamlessly are the key to development. Intermodal and multimodal transportation freight methods allow better shipment or commutation even to remote areas by combining different modes of transportation, including but not limited to flight, freight, truck, and public transportation. Although used interchangeably, intermodal and multimodal transportation systems are worlds apart.

Introduction to the Concept

The efficiency of smart cities can be improved beyond expectations by crafting an optimal transport system. Every stakeholder and customer is looking for that key innovation, which puts one community or a smart city apart from the other. May it be the low carbon emission or energy efficiency, accelerating development in smart cities lies in the hands of the transportation system.

Intermodal Transport System

As the name indicates, it is a transportation system connecting two or more modes. Under this system, goods transportation takes place in an intermodal container or loading unit, which passes through several modes of transportation (ocean freight, truck, rail, etc.).

Once the product reaches a specific geographical area, trucks deliver the product to a common collection area. From there, similar vehicles or smaller transportation deliver the product to the end customer. The entire transportation process comes under the control of a different carrier or transportation service provider under different contracts. This model includes airport rail-road link transportation, airport ferry connection, allowing automobiles on trains, train to ferry connections, and so on.

In the case of urban public transport, intermodal transport is used to reduce the use of individual automobiles and promote the utilization of public transport. Several intermodal journey planners such as  Rome2rio and Google Transit have taken the initiative to help travelers schedule their journey. Intermodal transport focuses on providing a blend of one type of rapid transit like the regional rail to low-speed options such as buses, trams, or bicycles. The latter is either appended at the beginning of the journey, or towards the end. Thus, trains provide a quick transit over long distances, such as from suburbs to urban areas, from where the passengers can choose the second option to travel within the city. For example, people can use trains or airplanes to cover long distances, and then pick a bus, taxi, or tram to travel from the airport to the in-city destination.

In places with dense populations and high demand for public transport networks, the intermodal transport system could be a reliable solution. By using mobility-as-a-service, it is easier to provide a digital solution to public transportation, including intermodal route planning, ticket mobility, sharing transportation, and others. Intermodal mobility allows packaging services from different types of public operators to create a holistic platform for booking, planning, and traveling. The best example of the intermodal passenger transportation is the feeder buses.

Role of Technology

Regardless of choice between multimodal and intermodal transportation, the system needs a basic transportation management system, which includes tracking, routing, and contract management. The use of ICT (information communication technology) in intermodal and multimodal transportation methods helps in better material planning, directness, and speed in the process. ICT is a grand advancement when compared to the conventional point-to-point style of integrating separate systems along the supply chain.

Apart from these, certain technological advancements provide better utilization of resources during these transport processes.

  • Open Interface for User Experience

    Using one simple interface linking the mobility services like public transportation, shared taxi, charging stations, and others will provide a better platform for the partners to have a heightened experience. In freight transport, this interface includes usage of the geo-localization system to track the product.

  • Electronic Cash

    Since multiple carrier companies are involved in the entire process, usage of electronic cash or pre-paid cards can reduce the time and complexity of the process. Using integrated cards, service providers can manage the spending and redeeming credits with less complexity. This process also gives more transparency to the entire process.

  • Smartphone Apps

    Allowing the passenger or contractor to track the route is one part of providing an application for the phones. Starting from using any electronic credits to reserving services for a future purpose, the scope of an integrated application for mobile phones is seamless. This real-time application allows the user to manage or identify the multimodality or mobility of the process with ease. For instance, with a traffic monitoring system, the passenger can get notification about a possible delay in trains and choose buses instead of trains to reach the destination.

  • Reducing Delays and Damages Using IoT

    Using IoT, the system can track and analyze every single required parameter of the transportation process. For instance, by utilizing IoT, the system can monitor the temperature of refrigerated containers allowing immediate fix to any compressor problem in any of the refrigerated containers during the transit. The same goes for avoiding the wrong delivery of products. IoT can also help in reducing delays and incoherence between two modes of transportation.

  • Cloud Computing

    Integrating ICT with cloud allows business service providers to respond quickly, reducing implementation and delivery time. This integration also reduces the need for drastic improvement in infrastructure while scaling up. With the help of cloud computing, the service providers can provide better features and advanced functionality to the users, in parallel to data security and reduced delay in data sharing.

  • Artificial Intelligence or RPA (robotic process automation)

    Implementing RPA in intermodal and multimodal transportation allows the service providers to reduce the redundant manual process, allowing customers to experience prompt services. In multimodal transportation, creating coherence between two modes of transportation is very crucial. Automatic reporting and automatic notification can help you create a strict timeline, which also reduces the overall delay.

    Other benefits of using advanced technology in the system are:

    • Improved efficiency even during unexpected operating conditions like driver strikes.
    • Reducing the number of empty runs with better routing.
    • Optimized utilization of resources and infrastructure.
    • Reducing the overall cost of the operation, thereby reducing the bill of transportation for each individual.
    • By using advanced terminal-based ICT, the loading and unloading time decreases. It also allows for better utilization of terminal infrastructure and coordination between different service providers during multimodal transportation.
    • During intermodal transportation, a centralized system for managing contracts and an automated billing process can reduce manual errors and delays in the contract of lading generation.
    • Wrapping Up,
    • Given the advantages and scope of intermodal and multimodal transportation, it is clear that one is not a direct replacement of another. For any flourishing modern city, both intermodal and multimodal systems are essential if one is looking for more efficient transportation without forgoing the green-initiative for a healthier tomorrow.
    • Read More About Intermodal V/s Multimodal Transport System.
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