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Old September 5th, 2010, 01:38 AM   #1
Fargo Wolf
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MISC | Motorail

I've always been interested in Europe's motorail services, but am having a hard time finding out more about it. Do rail staff load your vehicle for you, or, like the Channel Tunnel, do you drive your vehicle onto the railcar your self? Would love to see pics and vids of this service.

Are there any motorail services left in Europe and Scandinavia, or has the service gone the way of the dinosaur.
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Old September 5th, 2010, 06:15 AM   #2
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Italy has a handful of those services, though widely cut from past. You can find a list here http://www.trenitalia.com/cms/v/inde...003f16f90aRCRD . They have specific board stations, usually coupled with cargo stations. Bologna has a dedicated car terminal, so did (or still do, I'm not sure) Milano.

I know there are some cars for RO-RO transport of automobiles in 's-HErtogenbosch (NL), but I have no idea when and to where do services run. I've seen some likewise setup (parked rail cars, signs indicating entrance and so) in Salzburg.
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Old September 5th, 2010, 05:39 PM   #3
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Thanks. It's really sad that such a fascinating and useful service has all but disappeared.
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Old September 5th, 2010, 06:54 PM   #4
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There are some Germany/The Netherlands-Italy services, with various origins and destinations.

There are then some short services like Eurotunnel throught other tunnel in Switzerland and Austria, and a service running on a dam in Germany (Syltshuttle). Similar services ran between France and Italy (Fréjus tunnel) and throught the Bohinj tunnel in Slovenia (I don't know if this is still operational or not).

Here the Wikipedia in French about swiss services: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transpo...nées_en_Suisse

And an older thread on SSC: http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=718934

Other pages:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accompa...ined_transport
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Car_shuttle_train
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_highway
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Old September 5th, 2010, 10:05 PM   #5
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This service, although not entirely gone yet, is only today a shadow of its
former self.

They are less and less used, basically because it costs now more to transport
a car on a train for 1000 km way and back, than to rent a car for 2 weeks on
your place of destination.

Transporting a car on such distances for just 2 weeks of holidays becomes
also less and less ecologically acceptable.

The only people that miss such a service are essentially those who travel with
lots of luggage. This is very convenient for them because the luggage can
stay in the car while travelling. You just need to keep with you the stuff
you need for the night on board (once loaded, you don't have access to
your car anymore until arrived to destination). People in this case are, for
example, couples with small children. But people young enough to have
small children are usually not wealthy enough to afford the service...
I also know someone who liked to take his motorbike with him for vacation,
and used "trains auto-couchettes" (french namping for motorail) to do that.

To answer the question : yes, you are supposed to load-unload your car
yourself, and it does not seem difficult to do so. But stations dealing with
this kind of traffic usually have someone who can do it for you if you are
afraid of it.

Also, it must be noted that this service is targetted at typical sedan or
station-waggon cars. Larger vehicles like pick-ups, monovolumes or SUVs
are typically to big, notably in height. We don't have the loading gauge for
tri-level autoracks over here...
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Old September 5th, 2010, 10:46 PM   #6
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Optima Express is probably the only train in the world that has more carriages for cars than for people:

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Old September 6th, 2010, 12:50 AM   #7
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Domestic Motorail services in Britain rapidly declined after privatisation in the '90s and finally disappeared in 2005. Only the Eurotunnel Shuttle to and from France remains.

When they were first started in the '50s, the state of the British road network meant that trains were still by far the fastest and most comfortable way to travel long distances. The enormous growth of the network(especially motorways) soon afterwards and the increasing comfort of cars reduced the gap so that taking Motorail was no longer worth the extra time and cost for most people, and the services became a big source of loss. After privatisation they were inherited by the various new train companies and quickly cut.
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Old September 6th, 2010, 12:46 PM   #8
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I'm not sure there is such a service over the Fréjus tunnel. They had while they were repairing the Mont Blanc (and later the Frejus itself), which create a choke point and restricted the traffic of (especially) trucks. But now I guess they only retain the Domodossola car shuttle.
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Old September 6th, 2010, 01:28 PM   #9
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There was a shuttle service Modane-Bardonecchia (near the portals of the Fréjus tunnel) until the opening of the road tunnel, and there is a shuttle for lorries between Aiton and Torino Orbassano (about 175 km with the 13.5 km Fréjus tunnel in the middle). This shuttle has only 4 trains per direction per day.
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Old September 6th, 2010, 01:30 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suburbanist View Post
I'm not sure there is such a service over the Fréjus tunnel. They had while they were repairing the Mont Blanc (and later the Frejus itself), which create a choke point and restricted the traffic of (especially) trucks. But now I guess they only retain the Domodossola car shuttle.
That's a totally different business than the one the original poster is speaking
about. He was dealing with services that carry personal cars over 1000 km
along with sleepers and couchette cars in which occupants can sleep while
the train is travelling. You are speaking about small-distance services that
help motorists to go over (or better said, under, for that matter) short-distance obstacles that can not, or only with great difficulties, be made by
road. The former almost disappeared for the reasons I stated before. The
latter is also disappearing, but for different reasons : most of them were
there to avoid difficult roads in mountainous territory, but there are now road
tunnels available on that routes too, so the rail shuttles have become
redundant. The only operation of that style that will survive is probably the
channel tunnel. Or may be Maggie will finally have her way and a road tunnel will be digged out over there too...
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Old September 6th, 2010, 01:52 PM   #11
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I know we are talking about different services, and I provided a link for Italian long-distance motorail (as the OP named them) on post #2.

It would be awesome to have a Road Channel Tunnel, but I don't think that is going to happen anytime soon. The distances involved and the impossibility of side rescue tunnels would render such bore too expensive if trucks are allowed to use it.

As a road geek I'd love to see one built as an economist, it makes no sense for now. So I stick to my vows to get the 2nd Gotthard bore done instead :p
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Old September 6th, 2010, 03:08 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarcVD View Post
This service, although not entirely gone yet, is only today a shadow of its
former self.
In France they have an interesting service where you hand over your car in the evening at a loading point where it is then forwarded overnight to its destination. You then take a TGV the next day and pick up your car again.

Quote:
To answer the question : yes, you are supposed to load-unload your car
yourself, and it does not seem difficult to do so. But stations dealing with
this kind of traffic usually have someone who can do it for you if you are
afraid of it.
I think that in the Netherlands it was customary that the car was loaded by railway staff.
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Old September 7th, 2010, 01:19 AM   #13
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I like the rail shuttle to the isle of Sylt in Germany. I found several YouTube videos of it.
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Old September 7th, 2010, 03:49 PM   #14
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We have several of these in Austria. Basically there are three different types: Rolling highway, car shuttle trains and motorrail.

The most famous rolling highway is the one to the Brenner border with Italy. Unfortunately its hay-day is over. In the 90ties it was quite popular because Austria had an eco-point system that limited truck transit through the alps. Freight companies could save eco-points by using the rolling highway. The rolling highway is still used these days, but the business is not flourishing anymore as it used to.

I've never used the car shuttle service myself, but I used a motorrail train twice. There is a terminal quite close to here and we would drive with the car there, park it on the train and then go to our sleeping coach. That way we saved a whole night and in the morning we could drive with our car from the other terminal to our hotel, which was located in the countryside.

edit: Seems I was a little bit pessimistic. When I googled for the RoLa as it's nicknamed in Austria, I found a lot of vids and pics which show that the rolling highway is used quite well:

Last edited by rheintram; September 7th, 2010 at 03:55 PM.
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Old September 7th, 2010, 11:13 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suburbanist View Post
As a road geek I'd love to see one built as an economist, it makes no sense for now. So I stick to my vows to get the 2nd Gotthard bore done instead :p
What do you mean by "second Gotthard bore" ? Another road tunnel
parallel to the existing one, so that the 2x2 highway becomes continuous ?
I might agree with that one, provided the swiss do not relax their restriction
on lorries... After all, all rail line through alps are saturated too...
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Old September 7th, 2010, 11:27 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarcVD View Post
What do you mean by "second Gotthard bore" ? Another road tunnel
parallel to the existing one, so that the 2x2 highway becomes continuous ?
I might agree with that one, provided the swiss do not relax their restriction
on lorries...
Unfortunately the Swiss voted the second bore down. And to annoy Suburbanist even more the tunnel is going to be closed for at least a year somewhere after the new rail tunnel opens, so that it can be renovated. The intention is to set up a rail shuttle through the new base tunnel, which could be quite an impressive operation.
Quote:
After all, all rail line through alps are saturated too...
Something is being done about that. And the Swiss are pretty good at running traffic levels that apparently defy the laws of physics...
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Old September 8th, 2010, 01:30 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by K_ View Post
Unfortunately the Swiss voted the second bore down. And to annoy Suburbanist even more the tunnel is going to be closed for at least a year somewhere after the new rail tunnel opens, so that it can be renovated. The intention is to set up a rail shuttle through the new base tunnel, which could be quite an impressive operation.
To the extent I know, two simultaneous relief measures are going to happen:

(1) the Gotthard lower road pass (the newer one) is going to be improved to make it almost year-round opened. Measures include artificial tunnels (for both avalanche protection and snow diversion) and special snowplowing operations. For summer traffic, directional use of the higher road pass (the older one) is being considered - for cars only of course.

(2) Improvements will be done to the Simplon Pass road to allow increased traffic.

Simply put, it is impossible to haul anything near 60% of the local AADT on the Gotthard road tunnel by train, even if the Gotthard base tunnel AND the Loestchberg tunnel were BOTH dedicated only to handle diverted traffic. Those two base tunnels are not even fit for RO-RO transport of trucks (where the whole truck set goes by rail). The shuttles will be able to use only the older tunnels as they do now in Loestschberg tunnel, near Davos/St. Moritz and over the Simplon Pass. However, you can't just take all track capacity to transport freight, as in both ends there are cities served by passenger traffic that would get very annoyed to have their service cut.

In any case, the Swiss came forward with the odious AlpTrasit (but it's their choice anyway, though misguided) project calling not for an extensive transalpine network of RO-RO trains, but to piggyback operations where only the trailers/containers follow by train from Germany to Italy and vice-versa. EU made an agreement with Switzerland in which 40ton trucks would be allowed in Swiss highways, but the number of annual TRUCK crossings on the Alps would be limited and the Swiss would provide faster and cheaper freight trains instead and charge hefty road tolls for trucks. The opening of Gotthard base tunnel will allow such operations to begin, reducing the number of Alpine truck crossings of through traffic and ultimate freeing more space for cars.

The traffic car on Gotthard will be dealt like this during the 14 to 18-months renovation: during the summer, there are the San Gotthard road passes (lower and higher). Year round, there is San Bernardino tunnel, which has reasonable spare capacity and rarely gets jammed. In most of winter, the San Gotthard lower pass will be kept open. Unpleasant and somehow tricky, but better than nothing.

It is, however, absolutely impossible for a single-track railway, no matter how modern, to carry cars in train shuttles anything near the car traffic at Gotthard. This will not happen, so their priority is to take trucks out and send cars over the road passes. The completion of A96 in Germany already created better access to Brengez and Chur, help the prospect of a hellish, but not completely catastrophic summer traffic in CH.

After most trucks are unfairly (as I always like to remember) forced not to take Swiss highways but have their trailers shipped over tracks instead, maybe the Swiss will change their opinions on a second Gotthard road tunnel that doesn't increase the amount of truck crossing the Alps. Such limit for trucks will be decreased by almost 32% after the base tunnel opens. That will solve most congestion problems at Gotthard but those on summer.

Just as a matter of curiosity, when you see an info about Gotthar tunnel being full or congested, pay attention: it operates with a lower limit for truck traffic, so it is not unheard of situations in which trucks are lined for 30, 50 minutes on the left lane and cars are free flowing on the left lane, as cars are only prevented entering the tunnel in case its lanes (in each direction) are too crowded that would create congestions INSIDE the tunnel (far worse than congestions at the portals for obvious reasons). However, even if there are few if any car traffic (like a Winter Wednesday 2 AM), trucks will be hold at the portals to enforce unjust and unfair politically motivated restrictions.

A second Gotthard tunnel with 3 lanes and a widening of the Gotthard road would have cost far less and provided better trans-Alp traffic solutions than the Gotthard base tunnel itself, at least for the freight industry.
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Last edited by Suburbanist; September 8th, 2010 at 01:40 AM.
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Old September 8th, 2010, 01:52 AM   #18
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Quote:
Those two base tunnels are not even fit for RO-RO transport of trucks (where the whole truck set goes by rail).
The loading gauge of the base tunnels is as big as Eurotunnel's one and there will probably a limited service for truck on the new tunnel, and for cars on the old one.

Quote:
and charge hefty road tolls for trucks
Actually the toll is about 70€ less than the Italy-France motorways for a comparable distance.

Quote:
during the summer, there are the San Gotthard road passes (lower and higher)
There is only one pass, even if there are two roads leading to it on the southern side and partly on the northern (the new one built in the 70s and the old, historic road). The old one is only about 6 metres wide, that is less than two standard lanes (usually around 3.5 m each)

Quote:
However, even if there are few if any car traffic (like a Winter Wednesday 2 AM), trucks will be hold at the portals to enforce unjust and unfair politically motivated restrictions.
There are even more strict limitations on the two Italy-France tunnels.
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Old September 8th, 2010, 02:37 AM   #19
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Quote:
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There are even more strict limitations on the two Italy-France tunnels.
AFAIK, trucks from Aosta don't have any privileges crossing the Mont Blanc tunnel... while those from Cantone Ticino are singled out for limited waiting time, so they never stay idle 3 or 4 hours.

The Gotthard tunnel is also far more modern than the Fréjus and Mont Blanc, safety-wise.
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Old September 8th, 2010, 09:20 AM   #20
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AFAIK, trucks from Aosta don't have any privileges crossing the Mont Blanc tunnel... while those from Cantone Ticino are singled out for limited waiting time, so they never stay idle 3 or 4 hours.
They are only a small part of truck traffic. Northern Switzerland-Italy traffic doesn't have this privilege.
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