A PhD dissertation which proposes an integrated approach for optimising synchromodal container transportation seeks to bring together optimal transport planning in intermodal networks and the design of an optimal fare class mix of customer-oriented services.
Optimal Transportation Plans and Portfolios for Synchromodal Container Networks, written by Bart van Riessen for Erasmus University Rotterdam, looks at the concept of synchromodality, which makes use of whole networks of intermodal services, and saw the development of five models for practical problems in synchromodal networks.
The research addressed the planning problems in synchromodal networks from two sides, firstly to optimise transportation plans for minimum costs and secondly, to optimise the fare class mix of a transportation portfolio for maximum revenue. Almost all results show a substantial room for improvement in a synchromodal setting in comparison with a traditional approach, found the research.
The paper concluded that to optimally operate a synchromodal network, an operator must focus on an integrated transportation planning approach. Quantitative planning methods provide an opportunity for substantial improvement compared to relying on human insight and planning expertise for creating transportation plans or the portfolio structure.
Perspective is crucial in synchromodal transportation, found the research. Especially in the service network design, both the type of modelling and the results depend strongly on the cost structure of the intermodal network. For integrated networks, substantial cost savings can be attained if an integrated network plan is made, in comparison to optimising each corridor separately.
Synchromodal transportation operators should focus on creating good initial plans for optimisation. For dealing with disturbances, it is more important to have alternatives per container available than to be able to update the entire plan. Support for real-time planning is also valuable both for new incoming orders, as for re-planning in case of disturbances.
Fare class mix
For better utilisations, higher revenue, and higher on-time performance, it is crucial to achieve a good fare class mix and it is important to understand that cargo can be rerouted and long-term commitments must be adhered to. The benefit from the flexibility that arises from offering different services is likely of more value than the potential revenue increase, found the research.
For tactical and operational planning optimisation in synchromodal networks, it is beneficial to create an integral plan for a network of multiple corridors.