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Today, railroad shipment of containers is limited to point-to-point trains, without the possibility of loading and unloading at intermediate stops. The reason is that wagons are loaded and unloaded vertically with gantry cranes or similar equipment, which obviously cannot operate under the overhead electric feeding line. Trains need to be shunted to marshalling yards and back to the regular railway tracks using a diesel locos, which is costly and time consuming, therefore only point to point trains are operated, excluding transfer and collection of load units along the territory they cross.

Since 2004 the Metrocargo initiative is under development, aimed at enhancing intermodal shipment based on an innovative horizontal loading technology capable of working under the catenary.

The EC-funded FP7 “research for the benefit of SMEs” project 222199 VIT- Vision for Innovative Transport, completed in 2009, developed single components, mainly related to computer vision, that were successfully incorporated in a prototypal Metrocargo unit that was constructed with own funding, installed in the port area of Vado Ligure and extensively tested by an independent qualified organization. The EC reviewers noted: Project results … will allow getting substantial impact on the efficiency of the railway transport of containers. However, the … achievements obtained … represent … separate, well developed modules, rather than the complete, internally linked functional system. It will be good for the consortium to continue and try to link all these separate modules into a complete functional system … which will allow them working as a complete transportation system.


Purpose of this Collaborative Project is to support the proposing SMEs in their effort to bring Metrocargo from the prototyping stage to a market-ready application, and it comprises four aspects: technical improvements, scale up from a single prototype to an industrial system, marketing activities and dissemination.
The leitmotivs of the MIT project are:

Design industrialization and technical reliability: tests showed that specific parts need to be improved to minimize cycle time and increase reliability. An overall design review shall be done to assure reliability, availability and maintainability under northern Europe winter conditions.

Scaling up: to make available a full set of specifications, installation design and data required to pass from a single prototypal unit to a full industrial installation requires

Dissemination: following marketing studies to compare costs and operational data of Metrocargo versus traditional installations resulting in detailed market plans, dissemination actions will be effected comprising demonstration events at the Vado Installation and in road shows in at least four EU countries


The contents of this Project comprise four aspects, that are developed further in the WP section:

1. Technical improvements to the existing Metrocargo design, mainly addressing issues found in the test campaign. In particular there is a need for an industrialization of the electro-mechanical design and the integration of the safety system developed during the VIT project. Also some functionalities need to be added to increase efficiency: a software for the automatic determination of the position of the train at rest, a device for automatic witching of wagon pins. Finally, a verification of the performance after the improvements is necessary.

2. Scale up from a single Metrocargo prototype to an industrial system including several units, especially the installation engineering, the design and development of a three levels software to control the plant (comprising plant automation software, flow optimization software and plant supervision software). Also an images management software is needed to acquire and store a image history of each train and container after arrival to the plant and before departure, for future reference in case of damages.

3. A market plan for the commercial promotion of Metrocargo is going to be carried out, including an analysis of the economic impact and the market plan relevant to at least four European countries.

4. Finally, an extensive dissemination action will be pursued along two main lines: (i) setting up demonstration tools (for instance, a flexible SW simulation tool), (ii) organization of events, including events centred on the Vado Ligure prototype, a road show in at least six EU countries and exhibiting at major trade fairs.


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