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Rail Freight Revolution – A Possible Solution to Europe’s Clogged Roadways

Christian Wüst, Der Spiegel
Experts in the transportation sector are excited about CargoBeamer, a new German transshipment technology designed to shift more truck freight to the railways. The innovative system could ease congestion on the roads and help the environment.

For some people, the profession of long-distance truck driver used to be considered a dream job. Those days are long gone.

Nowadays the freight business is so overcrowded that drivers hoping to get some rest — as is required by law — face a shortage of parking spaces. “The drivers often spend hours searching for a space,” says Thomas Schröder, a freight hauler in Löbichau, a town in Germany’s eastern state of Thuringia.
Schröder, the owner of trucking company TKS Drosen, is about to try out a new way to address the problem. In the future, three of his trailers will complete the trip from Leipzig in the east to Cologne in the west by rail, using an innovative new transport system. It’s called CargoBeamer.

‘Next Generation’

The new technology is significantly different from other systems currently in use. Unlike the so-called “rolling highway” system, CargoBeamer doesn’t involve placing entire trucks onto special flatcars. Nor are cranes used to reload the cargo, as in the “combined transport” system.

Instead, the tractor pulls the trailer onto a special steel palette and deposits it there. Gripper arms installed in the ground then pull the palette, complete with the trailer, sideways onto a freight car. The side plate of the freight car is then closed and the load is ready to be moved (see graphic).

CargoBeamer is currently demonstrating how smoothly this loading process can be completed at a pilot facility in the eastern section of Leipzig. While it can take hours to load a train using cranes, the CargoBeamer method makes it possible to load an entire, 36-car freight train within 15 minutes, because all the freight cars can be loaded at the same time. Michael Baier, one of the inventors of the concept and chairman of the company, calls it the “next-generation freight transport system.”
(6 September 2010)

Nottingham named England’s least car-dependent city

Dan Milmo, The Guardian
Nottingham has been named as England’s least car-dependent city in a survey that exposes inconsistent planning across the country with one of the nation’s newest conurbations, Milton Keynes, labelled the worst for cyclists and bus users.

Award-winning bus services, a European-style embrace of the tram and a bias against out-of-town shopping centres were cited as powerful incentives for residents of Nottingham to leave their cars at home, according to a report by the Campaign for Better Transport. By contrast, Milton Keynes, trumpeted as the epitome of modern urban dwelling in the 1980s, is criticised for a reliance on the motor vehicle to get people from A to B.

Nottingham’s investment in 30 miles of cycle tracks, a nine-mile tram network and 230,000 miles of bus journeys per week made it the top ranking city overall. “It ranked highly for factors such as bus patronage, satisfaction with bus services and low car use for the school run. As well as having an efficient bus service, the new expanding tram system is now used by 10 million passengers a year,” said CBT.
(14 September 2010)

Recap of the Better Block 2

Jason Roberts, Go Oakcliffe
Amid the wonderful smells of smoked barbeque, and just beyond the music, we managed our second “Better Block” project, where we took a gray, concrete, and car-focused block and converted it into a more humane space that placed people first. First off, big thanks go to SWA Group, and Metheney for providing us with amazing landscaping plans and with 42 trees and 100 shrubs which were strategically placed throughout the area. We started with the 1300 Block of West Davis:

The area is filled with 1920’s – 1940’s structures built to the sidewalk with one exception…a gas station set back that breaks the people-friendly form. The businesses built in the area received a large portion of their foot traffic from the streetcar which ran along Seventh Street and turned onto Edgefield. Once the streetcar was removed in 1956, the block was retrofitted over time to push people aside for cars. As sprawl developed and zoning laws changed, businesses that could survive in these spaces had a hard time managing Dallas’ post-war transition. Lanes were widened creating faster traffic patterns, landscaping was uprooted to allow for more parking, and building windows were filled with mirrored glass, making the space unusable for window-shopping, and allowing little light to pass through. Though it took half a century to devolve, we were able to revive the space in under 24 hours:

(14 September 2010)