Intermodal road–rail freight transport works best within markets with relatively large flows occurring over long distances, which corresponds poorly to the current demand for transport in the European Union. The purpose of this paper is to compare the capabilities of conventional European intermodal transport, with special reference to the competitiveness in markets with small flows over short distances, and to explore innovative concepts. Using a technological systems approach, key functions are identified as being the inducement and blocking mechanisms that affect the develop- ment and diffusion path of this ‘small flows over short distances’ (SFSD) system, providing a tool for empirical delineation of the system. These concepts are illustrated and analysed through a case study of the Swedish development project Light-combi. The results show that market and financial uncertainties, insufficient network connec- tivity and policies favouring the existing technology paradigm, severely hamper the development and diffusion of SFSD systems.
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