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Intermodalism involves the organization of a sequence of modes between an origin and destination, including the transfer between the modes. Its main goal is to connect transportation systems that could not be connected otherwise because they are not servicing the same market areas due to their technical characteristics. However, each segment is subject to a separate ticket (for passengers) or a contract (for freight) that must be negotiated. Mutimodalism is simply an extension of intermodalism where all the transport and terminal sequences are subject to a single ticket or contract (bill of lading) that can be assumed by a single integrated carrier.
The differences between intermodalism and multimodalism appear to be subtle, but they are fundamental. Although multimodalism may look more efficient at first glance since less transactional costs are involved for the user, it is not necessary the most efficient and sustainable. A multimodal transport service provider will be inclined to use its routes and facilities during the transport process, which are not always the most convenient. The main purpose of a 3PL is to maximize the use of its assets, which could be at odds with the benefits of its users.