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Optimization of cargo container loading on

railway wagons

S. Aksentijević*, E. Tijan**, M. Jović*** and N. Munitić****

*Aksentijević Forensics and Consulting, Ltd., Viškovo, Croatia
** University of Rijeka, Faculty of Maritime Studies/Department of maritime logistics and management, Rijeka, Croatia
*** University of Rijeka, Faculty of Maritime Studies/Department of maritime logistics and management, Rijeka,

**** Ministry of the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, Zagreb, Croatia

Abstract - The aim of this paper is to research the the main prerequisite for the integration of this market
optimization of loading cargo containers on railway wagons segment into the EU market.
during the formation of railway compositions, by matching
technical limitations of the wagons, as required by the
wagon engineering discipline (“wagon loading schema” –
includes cargo position, weight, and axle load, among other According to the Railway Act (OJ No 94/13, 148/13)
parameters), limitations of the railway (maximum speed, [2] whose coming into effect has determined a beginning
railway class, axle load, cargo height etc.), as identified by of the railway transport market liberalization in Croatia,
the “State of the railway network” document issued by the the market consists of services and entities. Thus, defined
Railway Infrastructure Manager HŽ Infrastruktura Ltd., market is operated by the infrastructure manager and
and the commercial bill of lading. As a part of the research, operators of service facilities providing the railway
a mobile Web application has been created and tested with services selected as needed in different groups: minimum
the key pilot stakeholder, confirming the initial hypothesis access package, access to service facilities and to the
that the optimization methodology can successfully be used
services provided in these facilities, including track access
in optimization of cargo container loading and placement on
to service facilities, additional and ancillary services.
railway wagons, increasing efficiency and decreasing cost
and harmful emissions. Railway infrastructure is defined by the Railway Act
as a “public good in general use, which under equal and
Keywords - railway, wagons, intermodal transport, transparent conditions should be available to all railway
liberalization, ICT undertakings” [4]. The liberalization of the railway market
tends to improve the quality of rail services for the railway
I. INTRODUCTION transport users, at the same time reducing the maintenance
In EU, the attention to efficiency and safety of costs of railway infrastructure and traffic management for
international railway freight transport has grown in recent the amount of compensation which is collected from the
years [1]. With Croatian accession to the EU on the 1st of railway.
July 2013, a new Railway Act came into force [2], which Railway Act imposes a non-discriminatory approach
consistently and integrally regulates the utilization of the to railway infrastructure, and a possibility for legal
railway system in the Republic of Croatia. With the new persons that are not railway transporters to lease sections
Railway Act the cargo transport market in Croatia has of infrastructure. The access of railway transporters to
been liberalized. Croatian accession to the EU has enabled terminals and sea and river ports has also been regulated.
free access of foreign railway cargo operators to national The transporters have the obligation to conduct business
railway infrastructure under the same conditions that in accordance with market principles and apply the
apply to national cargo operators. At the moment, there principle of the freedom of service provision. Marked
are ten railway cargo transporters registered in Croatia, increase of the cargo transport on the terminal and port
including HŽ Cargo, previously the only one, and also a facilities in the Port of Rijeka has an important role in
state-owned railway cargo operator. Currently, alternative organization of business processes of cargo operators.
operators have a market share of more than 50 % [3].
Railway Safety Agency [4] serves as an independent
A final goal of the act is to achieve harmonization with regulatory body ensuring equal market conditions for all
the European legislation and conditions on the competitive the operators. It also establishes the conditions for railway
railway services market. The railway operators and transport operation, monitors railway infrastructure status,
infrastructure maintenance and oversight are separated railway services market, provides services of the railway
and functioning according to the free market principles, infrastructure management and the conditions for usage of

MIPRO 2020/DE-DS 1647

the infrastructure, the principles and procedures that apply • Identification of stakeholders and railway
to introducing and defining fees for railway services and operators,
assigns railway infrastructure capacities, the criteria for
issuing and cancelling permits to railway operators, and • Identification of technical data on utilized
the services of railway transport of special interest for the wagons,
Republic of Croatia which a partly state-funded. It also • Identification of technical data on containers used,
creates a set of criteria according to which operators need
to comply with the conditions monitored by the Agency • Business process analysis of wagon cargo loading,
for Railway Safety, that also issues certificates of safety
• Translation of business case to application
and other related certificates.
Sea (and river) ports may have a critical role in the
increase of rail transport due to the fact that a large part of • Identification of application configuration and
freight is carried by sea [5], [6]. This is the case in the port use-cases.
of Rijeka, located in an important geographic position [7] After thorough analysis, a leading cargo rail service
whereby its capacities must be well positioned and provider in the region was chosen for the key pilot action.
recognized on the traffic map of Europe in order to A management buy-in was obtained (the management was
channel large volumes of cargo to its terminals. committed to allocating time resources in order to fully
Considering the volumes of cargo that are unloaded from map the processes and provide insight into applicable
ships, the rail has an advantage over trucking because one business needs and timely delivery of data, documents and
train can transport a larger quantity of goods [8], it is more information required to build the application).
environmentally friendly [9], [10], [11], [12] and cheaper
[13], [12]. Consequently, ship traffic increase in seaports The application should present high usability and
is directly and positively correlated with the increase of portability, because the employees working with the cargo
the transport of goods by rail. wagon composing applications are remote workers and
need accessibility outside of the office. As a suitable
With the ongoing and well recognized trend of delivery method, Android application was selected, with
containerization, even the cargo that was previously the alternative being a Web-accessible application
typically break-bulk cargo is nowadays placed in compliant with mobile phone and tablet browsers.
containers and transported as such. Therefore, it is of great
interest for all cargo operators to optimize the process of Container train is composed of a number of wagon
container loading and wagon utilization, respecting the cars that can be owned by the cargo operator, or can be
state of the railway rules. leased. Each wagon type is characterized by specific
technical data, among which most important are:
• Weight
When loading cargo on wagons, it is extremely
important to optimize loading in relation to the wagon • Maximum total weight
capacity. The current mode is that operators, according to • Length
experience and by using simple Excel spreadsheets, create
wagon utilization calculations and loading plans. Such • Container loading schema.
primitive work cannot ensure the ideal utilization of
wagon capacity. The result is a loss of space and capacity Wagons are loaded with containers, and each wagon
on the wagon, inefficient work and inefficient rail depending on the type, can carry one or more containers.
transport. The solution is to create tailor-made software Containers are standardized and they can be divided
that will independently calculate the loading plan based on by their length and other characteristics [15]. Most
cargo and wagon data. This will speed up the loading commonly used are 10 ft, 20 ft, 30 ft, 35 ft, 40 ft and 45 ft.
process and increase the productivity of rail transport. intermodal containers. Furthermore, containers can have
Ultimately it will also contribute to increased additional technical capabilities, for example, they can be
competitiveness of the transport route. high format containers (called high cube containers), open
The participating partner of TalkNet project [14], Port top containers, collapsible (foldable) containers, or reefer
of Rijeka Authority, has contracted Aksentijevic Forensics – refrigerated containers.
and Consulting, Ltd., to provide the business process logic A task that railway cargo operators are facing is to
and application development for the optimization of form a train using the least number of wagons (effectively,
loading containers on wagons. The Talknet project aims to loading each utilized wagon to the maximum of its
encourage and improve coordination among key capacity). During the pilot action, executed as a part of
stakeholders to strengthen the integration between ports, Interreg TalkNet project, it has come to the researchers'
inland terminals, transport operators and policy makers. attention that cargo operators require an application that
Multimodality optimization and eco-innovation solutions would be equally operable using workstations and mobile
are the two main fields of cooperation to establish devices like smartphones and tablets. The envisaged
transnational stakeholders' networks for freight transport application needs to achieve loading and distribution of
A comprehensive analysis was undertaken in August the containers that need to constitute one shipment to
2019., that involved the following: available train wagon composition to be transported from

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point A to B and show them visually/graphically. • Wagon “registration number” (“license plate”) – a
Requirements for the application configuration that were list of registration numbers should be entered in
identified during the process modelling were: the system, belonging to (property of) an
appropriate wagon type
• Ability to enter wagon types and data
Train composition characteristics that need to be
• Ability to enter container models and data respected for Rijeka container terminals are the following:
• Ability to enter and save train composition (up to • Max. length of train composition in Rijeka: 505 m
30 wagons each)
• Max container load: 72 TEU
• Ability to exchange saved train composition data
(e.g. by email, using Google Drive, or other • Max number of wagons: 36 (capable to transport
dedicated server storage) with other app users 40' container each).
Furthermore, certain application functionalities were A creation of train composition also needs to follow
identified that constitute a minimum viable product certain logic embedded inside the application. User needs
(MVP) for this purpose. They are as follows: to enter the number of wagons to be used in a composition
and create a train composition by selecting available
• Input of the number and type of containers to be wagons in sequence. User has to upload cargo loading list
transported using bill of lading document in Excel form in the system. The system has to distribute
• Load saved train composition to be used containers to wagons, applying the following logic:

• Automatically distribute containers to wagons • Goal: maximum allowed load on each wagon
according to business rules • Dangerous cargo containers have to be placed
• Possibility of a “manual” mode: drag and drop of single at the wagon
containers to wagons after the composition has • Refrigerated cargo containers have to be placed at
been formed the end of composition, if possible
• Save loaded cargo train composition • Axle load cannot exceed 20 tons per axle
The application also needs to follow the basic rules of • Warning has to be issued if high cube (HC)
information security, meaning that different users should container is placed on “C intermodal wagon”
have separate usernames and logins, so every user can
access only their own data related to train composition and • Containers need to be placed according to
end result, but can use predefined container types common wagon's loading schema respecting set goal
for all users. Configuration data has to envisage wagon
types (models), wagon-related data and loading schemas The end result of the optimization should be a list of
for predefined types of wagons. Output results need to be wagons with loaded containers, exportable to Excel,
entered to final Excel loading lists that can be used by the including train composition, tare weight, net weight, and
field personnel to facilitate wagon loading, but also for gross weight. Also, the output should provide visual
data exchange with ERP and other systems. representation of the cargo composition and functionality
to manually rearrange cargo containers placed on wagons
During the business modelling, certain characteristics after optimization; again, with final export to
of the wagons needed to be considered by the analysts as Excel/saveable, and notification that cargo composition is
inputs for the optimization process. The key pilot partner not optimized, but manually rearranged.
uses six different types of wagons, and data that has to be
• Wagon type name (e.g.: Sggrs(s) 80’, Laags...) The system Frontend uses Bootstrap and the following
Bootstrap modules: jQuery, rangeslider.js, NProgress,
• Wagon tare weight (own weight)
FileSaver and SheetJS. Nginx is used to serve static files,
• Wagon load weight (in this case, cargo and other bidirectional communication is achieved using
container(s) total gross weight) Socket.IO. The server uses Linux Debian Stretch OS.
Backend stability is ensured by using Supervisor module
• Wagon gross weight (tare weight + container for Node.js (v10.16.3) run within screen instance.
weight with loaded cargo) Database used is MariaDB v10.1.38. Server is leased VPS
• Loading schema (how containers can be and public access is achieved accessing
distributed on the wagon depending on container http:\\
type – predefined by the engineers) Accessing the URL, the user is presented with the
• Number of axles login mask. The user can enter username and password,
select option to be remember on that particular device,
• Max load per axle (should be generally 20 t, but initiate login into the system or push the Contact button,
depends on the railway section) invoking default e-mail client to contact the administrator
in case of a forgotten password or a need to create a new
account. The login mask is shown in Figure 1.

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Figure 2: Screen for train wagon composition selection

The application is able to parse the uploaded Excel list

and to discern relevant data used for cargo optimization,
which includes container type, container weight, type of
goods, code, RID code (dangerous cargo) and other
relevant data.
After the bill of lading is uploaded to the server, it
automatically optimizes the cargo load, considering all
constraints, wagon loading schemas, types, characteristics
and weight of containers to be loaded, their size and other
train composition constraints. The end result is a graphic
representation of the optimized train composition, as
shown in Figure 3. In this example, there is a large
number of wagons that are not necessary to transport the
cargo on a particular bill of lading, because they remain
empty after the optimization and can be excluded from the
Finally, as required by the project, the user can click
(in case that application is used on a workstation) or swipe
(in case of touch sensitive devices) on a container loaded
to a wagon, and retrieve container info, including size,
TEU, container number, client, seal, size, transported
Figure 1: Login mask for Prailway optimization application placed on goods, NHM, colli, tare weight, weight and sum of weight
http:\\ and tare. The user can then unload the container from the
wagon to the server clipboard (or do the same with several
After logging in, the user is presented with the main containers), and then paste them to another wagon
panel. There are two different panels for administrators according to personal preferences.
and regular users. Administrators have the capability to
add new users, assign access levels and create and reset It is evident from Figure 3 that in this particular case,
entry passwords, while regular users can only use the core many wagons that were intially planned, after applied
of the application. By using the functionalities of this
optimizations, are in fact not neccessary to transport pre-
panel, the user can load previously saved train
defined cargo list, and can be exluded from the train
composition, exit from the application or create a new
train composition. composition.

If the user selects the latter option, he needs to enter The layout of the wagon unload screen for manual
the goal train length (maximum allowed train length in placement after optimization is shown in Figure 4 on the
meters), and after that, the user can form the composition, following page.
depending on the number of available (leased) cargo
The system contains the embedded data for six wagon
types used by the key pilot action partner: LGS-Z, KGS-Z,
Rgs-Z, Laags, Sggmr22 and Sggr(s). This screen is shown
in Figure 2. The system tracks added wagons in
comparison to pre-set allowed train composition length,
and after the user has entered the available wagons, he is
presented with the mask to upload the Excel bill of lading Figure 3: Output of optimization process
in form exported from existent cargo operator’s ERP.

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The achieved level of implementation and
functionality has justified the project goals, as the
container placement and loading are now not just reliant
on operator’s experience and heuristics, but are structured
and algorithm-supported. However, the application can be
significantly upgraded. For example, at the moment, it is
aimed towards railway leading to port of Rijeka and its
container terminals. Railway rules are hardcoded in the
system. Furthermore, it contains technical loading
schemas for wagons types used by the key partner, but not
for all possible wagons and tentatively those used by other
rail cargo operators.
Possible venues for upgrade are configurable settings
for limitations of the railway, and different loading
schemas for other wagon types, that would enable the
inclusion of other cargo operators. Considering the
ongoing implementation of a Port Community System
(PCS) in port of Rijeka, there is also a possibility of
interfacing this application with the PCS railway module,
Figure 4: Manual placement mode to achieve additional synergies in the railway cargo
optimization arena.
Finally, the user can export the formed composition in
Excel format, that includes all data contained in the input Additionally, the application could be upgraded to
list, but enriched with wagon composition and container support other ways of exchanging data with the
numbers loaded to containers with positions (left, center surrounding ICT systems. Considering that PCS and
left, center, center right or right-positioned) according to container terminal operating systems typically use EDI
technical loading schemas. This Excel spreadsheet can be and XML-format data exchange, such implementation is
used as a container to be further uploaded to ERP systems, also recommended for railway cargo loading optimization
or directly by railway personnel to oversee and coordinate application as a part of a possible future upgrade
container loading on wagons. project(s).

When loading cargo on wagons, it is important to This work was supported by “TalkNet - Transport and
optimize loading, considering the wagon capacity and Logistics Stakeholders Network” project (Interreg V-A
state of the railway rules. As a part of TalkNet Interreg Italy – Croatia 2014-2020) and by University of Rijeka
Central Europe project, the lack of optimization and under the Faculty of Maritime Studies projects.
structured methodology in optimization of contained
loading on wagons has been noted.
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