Photo: Dr. jean-Paul Rodrigue, 2012.
Double-stacking rail services were first introduced in North America in 1984, multiplying the productivity of inland container transportation. The advantages are obvious since two 40-foot containers (or 4 twenty-foot) can be stacked on a rail car, essentially doubling the capacity of a unit train. The drawback is a more complex loading or unloading and a higher clearance requirement so that double-stacked cars can fit under bridges and tunnels (see the above photo taken in the port of Vancouver, Canada). Until recently, North America remained the only region of the world where double-stacking services were possible. However, in April 2004, double-stack container train services using 40-foot boxes between Shanghai and Beijing were launched. Both cities can be serviced in about 38 hours. There is also the possibility of using double-stacked trains on the Betuweroute, a 160 km rail segment between Rotterdam and the German border.