The Ultimate in Road LH Co-operation P
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THE FRENCH HAVE A WORD FOR IT -,,KANGOUROU"
By NORMAN H. TILSLEY
ROAD-RAIL freight systems are already widely in use in other countries and Dr. Beeching's liner trains will provide British hauliers with an opportunity to participate in this sort of co-ordination on a scale hitherto impossible. Only last week a new British Railways/Transport Holding Company joint venture to exploit the use of Roadrailers was announced. All around us, then, there is a current compulsion to utilize the best methods—be they roadborne or railborne—to achieve the door-to-door delivery of goods as expeditiously and cheaply as possible.
But this is not all. These diverse methods of road-rail transport are brought sharply into compariSon by the prospect of a Channel tunnel, which will obviously demand some form of standardization between operators. What is it to be—liner train containers, Roadrailers, or something else?
Perhaps the French have the answer in their increasingly popular Kangaroo system (Technique Kangourou).
Why is the Kangaroo so popular and why is it being adapted for use in Continental countries other than France —for instance in Holland, Belgium and, probably within the next few months, in Italy? The answer is simple. It is a system which enables the largest kind of semi-trailer that can be operated on the Continent to be carried long distances swiftly, safely and relatively cheaply without expensive modifications to the conventional semi-trailer.
For instance, to haul a trailer from Paris to Marseille— a distance of about 500 miles—can take two days of hard driving along heavily congested tourist trunk roads. Using the Kangaroo system, a trailer can be delivered to the Paris "terminal at 8.15 p.m. one evening, transported overnight on le poids bard express—literally, "the heavy weight express "—and, can be collected the next morning at
10 o'clock in Marseille. , The haulier's prejudice against railways is not confined to this country. It is, apparently, an international ailment. And this is where the French have been clever. French Railways (the S.N.C.F.) do not operate the Kangaroo system themselves. They merely provide the locomotive power and the tracks over which the special wagons travel. Kangaroo and U.F.R. (which is another method of transporting smaller vehicles on flat, low-slung rail wagons) are operated by a Private company—,S.T.E.M.A. (the Societe de Traction at Exploitation de Materiel Automobile). The shareholders are mainly road hauliers and French Railways-60 per cent of the shares are owned by road hauliers, 30 per cent by French Railways. S.T.E.M.A. pays the rail c10 fare of the wagons to the railways and collects the money from the hauliers. There is thus no actual contact between the hauliers and the railways. The rolling stock, too, is owned by another private company called " S.E.G.I." (Societe d'Equipement des Grands Itineraires).
The Kangaroo system first became internationally known early in 1960 when, at Milan, Monsieur Louis Delacarte, the commercial director of French Railways, presented a paper on the subject. Later, in November, 1960, the board of management of the International Union of Railways presented a report by its working party which had been set up to study problems concerning the transportation of road vehicles on rail wagons.
They recommended the development of the system and suggested that "this type of transport can only be developed in association with the road hauliers, who must retain the control and responsibility of transport from door to door, the intervention of the railways being confined to the transport of the road vehicles by rail ".
Dealing with the technicalities, the working party suggested that in order to be accepted generally by road hauliers the methods used for conveying road vehicles on wagons must enable road vehicles of normal heavy tonnage to be carried and must offer, in any case, road operating characteristics which were as good as those secured with conventional vehicles. The most profitable systems of combined transport, they said, were those which provided for the conveyance of heavy-tonnage semi-trailers.
One of four methods Railway administrations were advised to adopt what is now known as the Kangaroo system for loads of more than 10 tons, and the U.F.R. system (for smaller vehicles) which had been developed in France since before the war. Thus, the system became one of four various methods of combined road-rail transport adopted by the International Union of Railways.
What, exactly, is the .Kangaroo system? A kangaroo is an animal which carries its young in a pouch. So it is with the French invention. The " younger " means of transport (the semi-trailer) is carried in the pouch of the older method (the railway wagon).
The technique enables entire trains, over given routes, to be substituted for individual road haulage and, operated on particularly well-equipped railway systems, it means that the goods can be carried at low cost.
For the haulier the technique has many advantages—a guaranteed sp'eedy and regular forwarding, a saving in tyre and maintenance expenses, and an improvement in the working conditions of 'driving stall. For customers of %hauliers who make use of it, it affords the possibility of simultaneously benefiting from advantages pertinent to road transport and to railway forwarding, which is a sure -guarantee of a further improved service.
Provided that the height dimensions of vehicles are not excessive, the Kangaroo semi-trailer (which' can be a flat, box body or tanker) is nd.different from an ordinary conventional semi-trailer, with the exception of three relatively small variationg. At the front there is an auxiliary coupling device—a hall or sphere—which enables the trailer to be lifted. and lowered by a specially con7 structed loading and unloading tractor. This sphere, of course, must be able to take the full weight of the trailer and its load, and therefore must be particularly strong.
So that the trailer can,be guided into position on the wagon and also to enable the. weight of the vehicle to be taken off the tyres when travelling, a special rim of hardened steel has to be positioned between the twin tyres on both sides of the trailer. The third adaptation is small indeed. To ensure that the lights and number plates do not foul the wagon when it is being loaded, a hinged tailboard is necessary which is folded back when the trailer is railborne.
The increase in tare weight caused by these adaptations is between 132 and 220 lb. Compare this with the weight of the Roadrailer's extra axle and railwheels!
It is the rail wagon which is really unorthodox. Between the main side members is a drawbridge " ramp " which, when lowered, carries the trailer's running gear in a lowslung position to reduce the overall height, of the outfit. When in the raised position it forms a level ramp over which trailers can be moved to be loaded on other wagons in the train, there being bridging flaps between wagons for this.
Kangaroo services branch out from Paris and Saint Quentin, operating to Bordeaux, Limoges, Lyon, Montmelian, Puyoo, Lezignan and Marseille. Within the past year a northern connection with Holland has been forged and, very recently, this has taken in Belgium. Two Kangaroo depots, or centres, have been established in Paris—at La Chapelle and Pompadour—the former serving the north, the -tatter the south.
Since the inception of the system in France in 1959 there has been a remarkable increase in the number of vehicles moved. At the end of the first year over 3,000 vehicles had been carried. This increased to 6,000 in 1961, 9,000 in 1962, and the figure at the end of 1963 has been provisionally stated to be 16,000—a sure indication that French hauliers have accepted the principle of road-rail co-ordination.
So successful was the Kangaroo found to be that the system was extended to take in Rotterdam—the centre of the Dutch haulage industry. Here, again, the system is run by a private company which is known as Trailstar. Trailstar is very much in its infancy (it started operating last October) but, even so, there has been a quick build-up in vehicle movements. From a modest five in October, the number of trailers sent southwards into France increased to 32 in April this year. -Like S.T.E.M.A. in France, Trai I sta r is jointly owned by hauliers and the . railways—the majority . shareholdings being in the hands of
some 25 Dutch hauliers. S.E.G.1. equipment is used and the trailers. are forwarded overnight to Paris and the south via the fast Trans Europe Express (Merchandise).
It was to Rotterdam that I was invited recently to witness a Kangaroo operation. It involved the transport of a 15-ton load of fruit conserves which was to be moved from Heusden, near s'Hertogenhosch, to Aubervilliers, a north-eastern suburb of Paris. The hauliers--Van Deudekom-Timmerman N.V. of Rotterdam—are oldestablished operators with about 65 long-distance road combinations at their disposal. They are convinced that, over a certain mileage, Kangaroo operation is a paying proposition. Bceause of this belief, they have invested in two TIR Kangaroo semi-trailers.
Having made prior arrangements with the Customs, to TIR seal the trailer at the collection point and, having notified Trailstar, the load left its point of origin at noon and was on the railway loading site at 2 p.m.
Transferring the vehicle from road to rail took a mere 20 minutes and. the nine different kinds of completed documents having been handed over to the TraiIstar representative, the wagon and trailer were shunted to the main marshalling point at 5.30 p.m, While this was happening, the Dutch hauliers had dispatched a telex advice to their agents in Paris J. G. Lion.
next saw the !railer, still on its wagon, soon after lunchtime the following day at Gare la Chapelle, in Paris. The vehicle was swiftly unloaded and a Unic Izoard tractor of Lion was soon hauling the Dutch trailer through the suburbs of Paris to the TIR .Customs clearance centre at Pantin, conveniently situated a few miles from the destination of the load at Aubervilliers. Depending on the speed of the Customs, the load would be delivered in the evening--just 24 hours after leaving Rotterdam. The whole Movement, from beginning to end, had gone without a hitch. For the 15-ton load, plus 7 tons of tare trailer weight, the charge was £35 3s. An example of how this charge increases with the mileage: the same load to Marseilles would cost £98 10s. 6d. (shareholders, incidentally, get a 10 per cent discount).
Is there a future for the Kangaroo in the rest of Europe? The answer, so far, as the countries directly bordering France are concerned, is defintely yes. Negotiations are currently taking place with Italy to start the system there and the next country to he exploited will be Germany.
Is the Kangaroo something that Britain's Continental hauliers should look at seriously? Here, again, the answer must be in the affirmative. Given sufficient demand, French Railways would extend the system north-westwards from Paris to one of the Channel ports, where such trailers could be shipped across to England on existing roll-on/rolloff ferries. But and this, to my mind, is very important-at some time in the foreseeable future there will be a Channel rail link by tunnel. Provided that tunnel is constructed to the French loading .gauge and dimensions. Kangaroo semitrailers could be railed through to Dover or Folkestone, where they could be picked up by British hauliers to continue to their destinations by road (these vehicles could not be adapted to operate within the smaller loading gauge of the British railway system, I understand).
British hauliers with Continental services, and especially those who are already matched up with French counterparts, would do well to think in terms of Kangaroo semi-trailers when they are replacing their TIR rolling
stock. I gather from York Trailer Co.—who have built several of these trailers—that the additional equipment costs about £320. Weigh this against the time and expense often encountered in getting permission to send a trailer through to France. Take into account, too, the additional running expenses of hauling through Holland and Germany to Italy, avoiding the more direct route through France because of the permit and licensing difficulties. A French haulier counterpart and a Kangaroo semi-trailer would solve this problem. But, above all, compare this ,.y.,tem with the British method announced last week. There appears to be only one conclusion to be drawn--the Kangaroo system C'est si bon!