Synchromodal Control Tower in the Netherlands

Context of Transport Climate Action

A major issue in freight transport is the currently fragmented information provision and sharing in the various phases of logistics chain and the lack of visibility throughout the complete supply chain. The fragmentation of information and lack of visibility can result in operational bottlenecks and less reliable transport flows. Logistics Service Providers and end users (shippers or local manufacturers) therefore often choose to use road transport over intermodal transport, because it is more flexible. The share of intermodal transport (use of rail and Inland barges) could be increased by improving visibility in the supply chain resulting in a significant reduction of GHG emissions.

Seacon, as a Logistics service provider operating throughout Europe, has developed a synchromodal control tower that combines different data sources to increase the visibility of the supply chain. Synchromodal differs from intermodal as the best mode available for transporting the consignment rather than just a cleared defined mix of modes for each leg of the journey. By applying this control tower as part of the planning process, the company can make better informed planning decisions (and which modality should be chosen for which trade route at the time of the shipping).


Seacon Logistics is a leading logistics service provider in terms of multimodal chain management. The company globally coordinates cargo and information flows and delivers tailor-made, responsible logistics solutions. The synchromodal control tower developed by Seacon combines different data sources from public and private sources in order to get a clear overview of the current situation on the transport network. Some sources that are taken into account include:

– Infrastructure information (current status, disturbances) from the infrastructure manager

– Overview of intermodal schedules (origin and destinations, planning) from the transport operators in both rail and inland waterway.

– Information on transport and volumes from the system of the logistics service provider.

The synchromodal control tower combines this information through algorithms to find the best (intermodal) solution for a transport route in terms of time, costs and sustainability (CO2). The system lets the user control these parameters (for instance provide a given timeframe for the transport). The control tower enables Seacon to take strategic and tactical decisions on applying intermodal transport when managing the transport flows throughout Europe.


In the coming years, the tool will be extended with real-time information on planning, capacity and status of the network from transport operators. This will enable the logistic service provider to make real time decisions on which modality is suitable for transport. The tool will thus be extended to the operational planning.


The synchromodal tool was developed by Seacon in close cooperation with Transport operator CTV Container Trucking, the Twente University, CAPE and TNO. The development was partly financed through subsidy by the Dutch Infrastructure Manager Rijkswaterstaat as part of a research programme for enhancing the use of Inland Waterway Transport (IDVV). The control tower is fully functional as a support tool for strategic and tactical decisions.

The further development of the tool in the coming years into an operational support tool is part of the Smart-Rail project, a European Horizon 2020 funded programme that explores innovative ways to improve and promote rail freight services. The project considers initiatives within the rail sector as well as solutions which involves other partners in the supply chain.

The control tower technology developed in this programme will become available for further roll-out to other organisations.


Increased visibility in the supply chain, enabling planners to make better decisions on the use of intermodal transport.

– Real time information will let planners choose the most optimal transport mode given the status of the network.

– Modal shift from truck to rail and barge, resulting in more energy efficient and sustainable transport.

Potential for scaling up

The present lack of visibility of the status of the transport network is an important barrier for companies to choose intermodal solutions. Providing real time data can help logistics service providers to increase their usage of intermodal transport, leading to an overall efficiency increase through reduced costs and increased sustainability of transport. This advantage is especially suitable for metropolitan areas that have access to multiple transport modes (short and medium distances).

Selected references

Smart-Rail deliverable 2.2: Work Plan of the Smart-Rail project



Europe, Netherlands, UK, Poland, Italy






Europe, Mitigation, Freight, Technology, Awareness


Seacon Logistics


Jarco Grapendaal

Jarco Grapendaal, Solution designer, Seacon logistics
"The synchromodal control tower enables our planners to make more informed decisions and provides insight in opportunities for the use of intermodal transport."