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Brittany Ferries confirms rail link plan

[ April 22, 2022   //   ]

Brittany Ferries has given the go-ahead to a new rail freight link between Cherbourg and Bayonne. The ferry company first announced the rail project back in February 2020, shortly before the COVID-19 crisis hit, but while the project was delayed, it was never cancelled, it says

During the pause, Brittany Ferries worked with French rail network operator SNCF Réseau and the Ministry for Ecological Transition to determine the routing for the new service, which will provide daily return journeys between Cherbourg and Mouguerre (near Bayonne) including modification of four railway tunnels on the route.

A framework agreement has now been signed, allowing the project to enter its concrete development phase, creating a rail link connecting Spain to the UK and Ireland via the French railway network. There will be sea connections linking Poole, Portsmouth and Rosslare to Cherbourg for unaccompanied trailers and services will operate daily, six or seven days a week.

Each train will consist of 21 Modalohr wagons, allowing 42 trailers to be transported. Trailers will be rolled on and off using specialised horizontal handling equipmentfor rapid loading and unloading.

The southbound service will depart Cherbourg at 19:15, arriving in Mouguerre the following day at 11:00. The northbound service will depart Bayonne/Mouguerre at 19:26, arriving at Cherbourg the following day at 11:08. The service will be available to customers of all Cherbourg ferry operators, as well as logistics companies based in the wider Cherbourg area.

The launch of the new service, initially planned for 2022, is now expected by mid-2024.

Brittany Ferries’ president said, Jean-Marc Roué, said: “As we enter this new phase, with the signing of the framework agreement between Brittany Ferries and SNCF Réseau, we can now secure the train slots for our services for the first five years of operation.

“Thanks to the support of the Ministry of Transport in the governments of Édouard Philippe and Jean Castex, under the presidency of Emmanuel Macron, we are finally able to make these ‘rail motorways’ a reality.

“Shifting freight from road to rail is something that many have talked about. But with this President of the Republic, it’s become a reality, forming part of our recovery plan. I welcome these political decisions which accelerate the future of low-carbon freight transport.”

The next phase will comprise the construction of rail freight terminals in Cherbourg and Mouguerre, and the acquisition of wagons and specialised loading equipment for the Lohr Railway System which has been selected for the project.

Brittany Ferries meanwhile will work closely with the Communauté d’agglomération du Pays Basque (CAPB) and the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region to carry out public consultation in Bayonne and has initiated discussions with the CAPB to acquire land for the Mouguerre rail freight terminal. In addition, a consortium comprising Mouguerre transport operators, the CAPB and Brittany Ferries has been formed to respond to a European Union call for proposals under the Connecting Europe Facility, which aims to develop new multimodal platforms.

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