APL Land Transport Services (APL) has renewed a transportation contract with Norfolk Southern Corporation (NS) due to its consistent on-time service. Under the terms of its new 31/2-year contract, NS will continue to provide the underlying rail carriage throughout the US southeast for APL's cross-country moves of domestic and international containerised freight. ''The advent of reliable intermodal freight transportation is being driven by the need of many large-scale shipping customers to slash inventories and streamline their production and distribution strategies,'' said Mr Tim Rhein, president of APL Land Transport Services. ''While, traditionally it was believed that a rail-based intermodal system could not compete with trucks, those days are over. ''Intermodal cross-country transit times are now measured not just in days but in hours and minutes,'' he said. Mr Rhein said his firm's contracted standards with the railroads, which call for a 90-per cent on-time stacktrain delivery, were believed to be the highest in the industry. ''We've achieved 95 per cent on some traffic lanes and are striving to make that our standard. We have more work to do with some of the rail carriers,'' he said. The NS hauls more than freight on APL stacktrains to and from the southeast, the railroad said, making APL its largest single intermodal customer. Stacktrains are fast, 1.5 kilometre-long trains that use technologically advanced cars to carry two tiers of containers.