Freight rail yards are facilities where the transfer of containers is performed between freight trains, and where railcars are stored and maintained.
A rail yard has a number of tracks running parallel to one another, where different freight trains carrying multiple containers run and are processed. Rail yards, which are also known as rail classification yards or shunting yards, separate or uncouple the freight cars and reassemble them with others having common destinations for single shipments. Freight consolidation is a fundamental component in greening the freight and logistics sector, especially in reducing the number of trucks on the road. Increased support from green freight programs for enhancing the capacity of railway yards to efficiently undertake this task is fundamental. This also suggest that the terminal or the yard must be specially designed to support freight consolidation, and that its location must be strategically positioned as it functions as a consolidation and distribution center.
Similar to other transshipment terminals, rail yards require specialized cargo handling equipment, such as gantry cranes which are arranged alongside the tracks to enable transfer of containers between trains. The capacity of the yard is determined by the number of tracks and gantry cranes. Usually, transshipment yards have both a storage area and truck lanes so it can serve both a rail-to-rail transshipment yard and an interface for combined transport. Increased fuel efficiency can be achieved through a more efficient asset management operations system (i.e. scheduling, tracking, and dispatch).
Other improvements to rail yard efficiency include infrastructure improvements and operational measures such as information and communication technology to facilitate tracking among train operators. Some of the measures that can be employed to control emissions from railway yards include use of event recorders to log train operating conditions and monitor fuel consumption allowing a more efficient fuel run, modular systems for efficient construction and maintenance, as well as use of distributed locomotives for a more optimized power distribution.