Source: adapted from Inland Port Transportation Evaluation Guide.
An inland terminal, like most transport infrastructure, has a life cycle that involves a sequence of stages:
- Stage 1 (Planning). At this stage, the business opportunities of an inland terminal are considered and evaluated. This involves the identification of potential sites and the costs incurred, as well as the search for potential users and sources of financing. Consideration should also be made to the size of the facility, its governance, its integration with a logistics zone, and its insertion within local, regional, and global systems of freight circulation.
- Stage 2 (Setting). Once a decision has been reached about the terminal site, construction takes place, often through expansion stages, so that the provision of additional capacity can be made in an incremental manner. This marks the setting of the first users; some of them can be transitional (e.g. taking advantage of cleared land for storage purposes before other facilities are constructed).
- Stage 3 (Growth). If the commercial premises of the inland terminal are sound, it quickly develops its market potential, which will be proportional to its sitting within local, regional, and global freight distribution systems. New users decide to use the facility and by locating in the vicinity, which favors the development of logistical clusters generating added-value to freight distribution.
- Stage 4 (Maturity). At some point, the market potential of the inland terminal is reached, and traffic and revenue generation reach a peak. Most of the development zone is now occupied, and few new users set in, often to replace users that may have left. This is also the phase that sees rising costs due to real estate pressures and congestion of the terminal facilities and its accessibility to the regional transport system. Since the inland terminal has become a node of economic activity, many other forms of real estate development take place in proximity, notably housing and retail. This has the potential to increase externalities and public pressures to mitigate them. Unless a new expansion phase takes place, the inland terminal facility is contemplating a stabilization of its traffic, which could lead to a decline.
- Stage 5 (Decline). Because of changing market conditions (e.g. new competitors) and rising externalities, the relevance of the inland terminal for components of the regional freight distribution system could change. This usually coincides with the departure of several key users and attempts made by public authorities to subsidize users in keeping using the facility (e.g. tax credits or infrastructure provision). If the commercial environment has substantially changed, the closing of the inland terminal facility is possible.