Freight villages are public logistics infrastructures dedicated to intermodal transport, which typically integrate an intermodal hub and multiple logistics platforms used for cargo consolidation and deconsolidation, with a focus on last mile urban freight distribution using lightweight vehicles.
The role of freight villages within the logistics system
While the core function of an intermodal terminal consists of modal shift for cargoes between rail and road without undermining the cargo integrity (that is to say without opening the containers), the main scope of freight villages is to act as a joint between heavy transport (e.g. containers on freight trains and trucks) and proximity transport (e.g. smaller vehicles, which can easily move in the urban environment). Freight villages are therefore located near the large and densely populated urban areas they serve.
Collecting and distributing shipments which transit through a freight village involves dealing with a higher fragmentation of volumes, compared to intermodal terminals; this reflects the difference between transport services dedicated to the industrial distribution and transport services addressing the needs of retail and e-commerce.
The location of a freight village is therefore heavily influenced by origin and destination flows of goods: freight villages are usually connected with the rail and highway network (just like intermodal hubs), but are typically closely situated in large metropolitan areas, which can generate a high and constant demand for capillary freight transport services.
Activities and services of a freight village
As effectively explained in this presentation by Prof. Eng. Umberto Crisalli of the University of Rome – Tor Vergata, the operational activities which characterize a freight village not only include the collection, distribution and transfer of cargo units, but also the cargo consolidation and deconsolidation activities, and the temporary storage of goods in warehouses.
In order to manage a high number of inbound and outbound vehicles, freight villages also feature large parking areas, as well as yards used for the temporary storage of cargo units.
Distribution of alternative fuels and recharge stations for electric vehicles are other value added services that can be offered by a modern freight village.