The MegaHub fast transhipment facility in Lehrte began operations in mid-2020, initially as a road-rail terminal. Kombiverkehr KG launched its first rail-to-rail transhipment service in April 2021. Time is of the essence in the logistics business, which is why MegaHub Lehrte has hit the headlines. While timetable restrictions mean it is not uncommon for a consignment’s journey to be interrupted for 12 hours as it awaits transhipment at conventional terminal gateways, at Lehrte most cargo can “change trains” in less than three hours. That’s mega fast: just one third of the time. The site’s centrepiece is a sorting system that uses automatic transportation to ferry freight between the gantry cranes. Incoming containers, semi-trailers and swap bodies are lifted one by one from their trains and then shifted to freight trains according to their destinations. This process saves energy and at the same time cuts noise to a fraction of previous levels. The final product: single-destination trains that are on their way to their various stations across Europe in virtually next to no time.
Peter Dannewitz, head of sales at Kombiverkehr KG, is thrilled. “The facility has made Lehrte, near Hanover, into another important hub in our network,” he says. “This region now has even better connections to Europe.” As a veritable “gateway 2.0”, the MegaHub is also in a position to boost other terminals in the wider area as they can offer customers links to more destinations. Dannewitz says, “Our new way of working gives freight forwarders and logistics companies access to a new diversity of options and flexibility when it comes to sending cargo to Europe’s main economic centres and ports.”
- Kombiverkehr develops, organises and markets a Europe-wide network for combined rail-road-waterway transport. The company’s range of services is targeted at freight forwarders and transport companies. In 2020, the company shifted over 850,000 lorry consignments to the climate-friendly rail network.
- In the initial phase, Kombiverkehr will operate direct services between Lehrte and the following terminals: Ludwigshafen KTL, Duisburg Ruhrort Hafen DUSS, Lübeck Dänischburg CTL and Baltic Rail Gate at Lübeck’s Skandinavienkai. Riem in Munich and Verona’s Interterminal facility were added as further dispatch and destination stations on 26 April. More destinations are being planned.
People and technology make for fast transhipment
At the moment, three cranes work the transhipment sidings, each of which is some 720 metres long. The cranes are supported by battery-powered driverless transport vehicles known as automated guided vehicles (AGVs). These transport the goods along the sidings to the intended freight wagon once the gantry crane has unloaded a load unit. Once the load unit arrives at the wagon, the crane picks it up again and places it on the train, which then transports the freight to its final destination. The AGVs reduce the cranes’ workload while saving energy and enabling more efficient loading and unloading. Several wagon inspectors are on duty at any one time to monitor the wagons. A sophisticated central computer manages the individual parts of the yard and the overarching processes.
“We are delighted that MegaHub Lehrte lets us connect to our customers’ different destinations.”
Nicole Brandenburg, Terminal Manager MegaHub Lehrte
Nicole Brandenburg is in charge of the Lehrte terminal. She describes how testing progressed: “We ramped up all of the facility’s components in succession, had the sorting system in test mode first and then started with our rail-rail transhipment activities in April. From now on, it’s all for real.” So far, the experience has been positive. The MegaHub has moved to regular operations and is delivering on its promise to customers: quicker times and better networking. Brandenburg’s assessment of the first phase: “Our customers think the operations model is super.” She has a lot of proof for this, including enquiries from very big, well-known logistics companies that want to benefit from the site's faster transhipment processes and extended geographic reach.