New technology on offer at a key logistics site in Calais is to revolutionise the way freight is transported from the UK to Eastern Europe and beyond.German company CargoBeamer is to target the UK logistics industry with its innovative system, which lifts unmodified lorries - also known as semitrailers and megatrailers - onto trains when its new facility at the Calais Premier logistics park opens.
It will also cause less damage to the environment.
CargoBeamer's marketing, sales and finance director Michael Baier said: "CargoBeamer offers the only fully-automated system for transferring non-craneable semitrailers onto the railway and vice versa. Within one of our CargoGates, we can shift up to 10 times more trailers to trains than a crane terminal can operate.
"We have chosen to base our facility at Calais Premier as it's strategically an important location, close to the UK and the extensive European rail network."
Currently only a fraction of road transport volume can be craned, and existing systems have high operating costs and take several hours to load. The CargoBeamer technology uses parallel, rather than sequential, loading, meaning 98% of non-craneable trailers can be on the train within 15 minutes.
Additionally, it allows a change of railway gauge, thereby easing transport between countries.
The firm's goal is to have 75 of its CargoGates in Europe, creating a network of all freight centres and connecting all European cities, from Glasgow in the west to Moscow and Istanbul in the east.
The gate at Calais Premier is to be an integral part of a major logistics development, the first phase of which will take two years to build and cover 50 hectares. Developer DCB International believes this will create thousands of jobs and bring in investment worth £176m. Click on the image to see a video of the development at Calais Premier (in French).
Construction work on the project, which is in partnership with property developers DCB International and economic development agency Calais Promotion, begins early in 2012, and will be completed by 2014.
Funded by the European Union and designed at CargoBeamer's headquarters in Leipzig, the system will create a 'rail motorway' connecting the UK and France with Eastern Europe and Russia, freeing up heavily congested roads, and offering more profitable transport to hauliers.
It will consist of 220,000 sq m of logistics warehouses, 50,000 sq m of industrial parks, and 11,000 sq m of commercial property.
Eventually it will become the biggest logistics development in Northern France, covering more than 160 hectares.
There will also be a significant investment in infrastructure, with £1.8m to create a new railway junction and modernise the Calais-Dunkirk railway line, and £350m set aside to double the size of the Port of Calais.