Combined goods transport

Combined goods transport involves different modes of transport (road, rail, water), during which the goods themselves are not offloaded and reloaded but the intermodal transport units in which they are transported (e.g. containers). The concept of ‘combined transport’ is to cover the greatest part of the journey by rail or ship (main leg) and to keep the pre-carriage and onward carriage by road as short as possible.

In recent years, combined transport has gained in importance, accounting in 2021 for 39% of the tonnage transported by rail and for 14% of that transported by inland shipping to and from Basel. The percentage for road transport is much lower because as mentioned above, goods are only transported by road for the pre-carriage and onward carriage (average distance covered of about 50 kilometres). The share of combined transport in road transport was 2% in 2021. This figure concerns only transport by domestic vehicles.

Tonnage transported in combined goods transport, 2021
Combined goods transport by rail
Total net tonnes transported 23.3m
    Change since 2016
    Share in total goods transport by rail
Net tonnes transported in unaccompanied combined transport 22.2m
    Domestic transport
    Import   5%
    Export 3%
    Transit 84%
Net tonnes transported as piggy-back freight (rolling motorway)1 1.1m
Combined goods transport by road2
Total net tonnes transported 5.4m
    Change since 2016
    Share in total goods transport by road
Combined goods transport by inland shipping (Rhine)
Total net tonnes transported 0.7m
    Change since 2016
    Share in total inland shipping
1) transit route Freiburg i. Br. (D) – Novara (I)
2) domestic heavy goods vehicles
FSO – Statistics on combined goods transport (KVS)

Transported units

Instead of tonnage, the number of transport units transported can also be considered. In unaccompanied combined transport by rail, 1 365 000 intermodal transport units (containers, swap bodies and semi-trailers) were transported in 2021. 257 000 or 19% of them were empty. Additionally there were 65 000 lorries transported as piggy-back freight between the intermodal transport terminals in Freiburg i. Br. (Germany) and Novara in northern Italy.

In 2021, some 44 000 containers were transported by inland shipping on the Rhine to Basel; 32% of them were empty. In the opposite direction, 36 000 containers were shipped; 32% were empty. The relatively high percentage of empty containers can be explained by the different demand for large and small containers depending on the direction of shipping.

Further information


Statistical sources and concepts


Federal Statistical Office Section Mobility
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