Modalohr - fact sheet
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France - intermodal wagon

Modalohr is a semi trailer transport system on rail car, invented by the French company Lohr Industrie. This company created in 1963, based in Alsace near Strasbourg, is primarily a transport trucks of cars manufacturer and vehicle for logistics for army defense.

Following the fire in the Mont Blanc tunnel in 1999, the French and Italian states decided in 2001 to create an experimental railway intermodal link, using subsidies until 2006 and with the approval of the European Union. Thus was born the 'Autoroute Ferroviaire Alpine' (AFA) under experimental status by the French and Italian States, with the support of institutional and private partners (including road transport). Opened November 3, 2003, AFA is a truck transport service on special wagons which travel on a distance of 175 km between France and Italy through the railway tunnel Mont Cenis. The first goal was to be able to carry all types of road trailers (semitrailers) without intermodal specificities. The loading had to be done horizontally, and not by a crane or reach stacker (see the article at this link). The French did not want the solution like the Saadkms wagons used on the Swiss and Austrian rolling road (ROLA), because of their small wheels as shown below:

The swiss/austrian ROLA (photo by Mikolsch via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0)

They wanted a solution of their own and were able to find it via the company Lohr Industrie, which proposed a swivel floor system at 45° for loading and unloading trailers, as shown in the photograph below:

(photo Lohr Industrie)
(photo Lohr Industrie)

This system has the advantage of being exempt of any use of crane but, however, it requires a special platform where trains must be positionned to a precision of centimetres. The maximum allowable gauges of highway trailers on a low-deck wagon to passing within the GB1 rail gauges are from about 3.98 m (suspensions down). The manufacturer gives a range of 3.97 meters to 4 meters depending that the semi-trailer is loaded or unloaded. Originally on the transalpine AFA, it was expected to haul the full set of the truck, semi-trailers and the tractor included. But the tractor must be loaded separately on another wagon as illustrated by this picture:

(photo Lohr Industrie)
(photo Lohr Industrie)
Three Modalohr links in France

The first link is the AFA, from Aiton (FR) to Orbassano (IT), which has been slow to start (november 2003). The service offers four round trips per day, evenly spread throughout the day and open simultaneously transporting accompanied and unaccompanied transport. The share of unaccompanied traffic varies between 60% and 75%.

A second line was created in 2007 through the company Lorry Rail, an subsidiary of Geodis (SNCF). It uses the same technique with two terminals: one in Bettembourg in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the other in Le Boulou, near Perpignan and the highway to Barcelona. This service allows the crossing of France in a night jump. It also accepts unaccompanied trailers, which are loaded by yard tractors. To massify the traffic flow, the Lorry Rail trains are coupled with a series of classic intermodal cars, where the loading is done by a classical reach stacker.

A third link will be established in 2016. VIIA Britannica also connect Calais to Le Boulou, from January 12, 2016, always with the same technique Modalohr with swivel floor system. Works in progress in the Calais harbour are illustrated below with a special platform:

The specialized platform in work in the port of Calais (photo VIIA Britannica) 
Photo gallery avaible at this link
Demonstration video of the Modalhor concept
Corporate video of VIIA