While demand for trailer trains with pocket wagons increases day by day especially by the Turkish truck companies, another system has been used for more than 10 years especially in France to transport unaccompanied standard and cranable semi-trailers: LOHR system.
The system is based on special design LOHR wagons differs from the pocket wagons with allowing horizantal loading and from RoLa wagons with low-floor (225 mm from rail) enabling 4mt semi trailers to be transported in almost all routes of Europe, including the narrowest ones of France and Switzerland (P390/UIC GB1 gauge). This 6-axle Sdmrss wagon has 2 pockets for trailers, which can turn and allow trucks to load semi-trailers directly onto the pocket. Presently, 185 Modalohr (the early version of LOHR wagons) wagons run in France, Italy and Luxembourg. Additional 383 LOHR UIC wagons (the new version of LOHR having TEN marking and lower floor) are already ordered and going to be on operation in following years.
In addition to special wagon, LOHR system needs also specially designed and equipped terminals. These terminals have lowered rail tracks or raised platforms and equipped with devices integrated in the ground in order to open the wagons at an angle. These terminals allow unloading/reloading of one complete train less than 30 minutes. A 550x80m LOHR system terminal can process more than 8 trains arriving and 8 trains departing every day with a storage capacity of 180 semi-trailers. The horizontal loading also allows to work under catenary.
There are currently 4 Lohr system terminals on operation: Aiton (France), Orbassano (Italy), Le Boulou (France) and Bettembourg (Luxembourg). 4 new terminals are under construction: Port of Calais (France), Dourges (France), Tarnos (France) and Dudelange (Luxembourg) all of which will be opened until 2016.
There are two semi-trailer train services with Modalohr wagons. One is between Aiton and Orbassano (175 km), operated by Autostrada Ferroviaria Alpine (AFA), a joint venture of FS (Italian Railways) and SNCF (French Railways). 4 trains depart every day in each direction. 32k semi-trailers carried annually in this line.
Other is between Bettembourg and Le Boulou (1040 km), operated by Lorry-Rail, a joint venture of SNCF, CFL (Luxembourg Railways) and Modalohr. Lorry-Rail offers 4 trains in each direction every day. 45k semi-trailers carried annually.
The new train service between Dourges and Tarnoscurrently, will be operated by VIIA, a subsidiary of SNCF and is planned to carry 80k semi-trailers annually.
This extra-ordinary system providing very fast loading/unloading and being able to overcome loading gauge limitations for standard semi-trailers has of course a cost. Construction of a LOHR system to a terminal may vary from 200k to 30 million € depending on the size of system (number of equipped loading platforms). The new LOHR UIC wagon costs up to 400k €, which about doubles a pocket wagon and triples a 90’ container wagon.