CT Operators

Distinction on services

CT operators are the companies which carry out the interface role between the modes of transport when goods are routed according to the combined concept. In the combination of rail and road, broadly speaking there are two types:

  • The operators offering a terminal-to-terminal service
    To do this they acquire the necessary rail traction from the rail undertakings and, usually through the intervention of the latter, access to the rail infrastructure; when this is combined with transhipment operations in the terminals and the required transport documents, they are able to supply an integrated service to their clients, - road hauliers freight forwarders and logistics companies -, who themselves ensure transport of the loading unit to the point of departure and/or its collection at the point of arrival.
    This type is the most widespread among the UIRR operator members, who express in this manner their concern of not wishing to compete with their road transport shareholders.
  • The operators offering the complete chain of transport from door to door, that is to say from the shipper to the final consignee.
    They thus also take care of the initial and/or final leg by road to the transhipment yards.

Distinction on type of loading units

For a long time another distinction could be made between the CT operators based on their shareholders and the type of loading units handled:

  • companies said to be “in road-rail transport”, that is to say private operators the majority of whose capital is owned by road haulage companies or freight forwarders and a minority stake held by the national railway undertaking, and essentially marketing the service of routing swap bodies and semi-trailers;
  • companies said to be “in containers”, that is to say the emanations of the traditional railway undertakings which concentrated on routing of (ISO) sea containers in terrestrial hinterland. They were organised on a national basis, such as CNC in France (now Naviland Cargo) or Transfracht (Germany) or by a group of European railway undertakings, as is the case with Intercontainer.


Due to the liberalisation which since 1991 has also been evident in the rail freight transport market, this double distinction has gradually become less pronounced.

The CT operators are not simple commercial intermediaries; they represent a considerable contribution to the CT service in providing a very large number of the special wagons required (± 13,000 for the UIRR member companies), a presence (in certain cases as owner) in the transhipment terminals, and the documentation and computer systems for reservation and tracking of their clients’ consignments.