Road-Rail CT


The European Union as well as the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE) have accepted the following definition of Combined transport (CT):

“Intermodal transport where the major part of the journey, in Europe,
is by rail, inland waterways or sea, and any initial and/or final legs carried out
by road are as short as possible.”



The activity of UIRR s.c., which consists of member companies and a liaison office in Brussels, mainly involves the combination of road and rail.

This combination brings together the advantages of both rail and road:

  • on the one hand rail can carry large quantities of freight over long distances, and
  • on the other hand road vehicles provide the flexibility needed for regional distribution.


In unaccompanied CT, the goods travel in swap bodies, standardised containers or semi-trailers. These are efficiently transferred at transhipment sites, also called terminals, which are conceived to act as the link between these methods of transport.

In accompanied CT, the whole road vehicle is involved, i.e. the traction cabin too, which is driven onto a special wagon, and the driver accompanies it in a specially fitted couchette wagon.


CT chain and actors

CT is the result of collaboration between different partners, essentially:

  1. the infrastructure managers (IMs), who put the railway network at the operators’ disposal for a fee;
  2. the railway undertakings (RUs), which operate rail traction services;
  3. the CT operators, who buy transport capacity from the RUs going from the equivalent of one isolated loading unit (distribution traffic) to the whole train; they provide about half the required wagons, the other half coming from the RUs;
  4. the terminal managers, who are, according to the circumstances, CT operators, RUs or local operators.
  5. the clients – road haulage companies, freight forwarders, logistics companies – who deliver the loading units to the departure terminal and collect them at the destination terminal*.

According to these various contributions, CT operators work out their basic programme, with annual or long-term validity, being the subject of a timetable and price catalogue, but also individual tenders in order to meet specific requirements. They market either terminal-to-terminal transports for logistics companies, freight forwarders and ship-owners, the initial and/or final legs by road being carried out by the clients, or the whole transport chain from the loader to the addressee.


The most dynamic market

CT is recognised as being the most dynamic market for the transport of goods in Europe, which will most surely enable the RUs to participate in the growth of transport requirements essentially resulting from growing economic welfare and EU enlargement. Moreover, in comparison to road and maritime routings, road-rail CT makes it possible to limit the emission of pollutants and energy consumption.

From the point of view of transport and environmental policy, the development of CT represents one of the main thrusts of the EU’s and its Member States’ strategy. Indeed, this transport system benefits from strong and deserved support at European level which consists of various promotional measures such as the elaboration and preservation of framework conditions to ensure it fair access to the transport market.

Related documents
Terminology in Combined Transport DE EN FR RU