Freight News, Rail

Calais intermodal service put back due to migrant fears

[ January 13, 2016   //   ]

SNCF Logistics’ rail freight subsidiary VIIA has postponed introduction of a new piggyback service from the South of France to Calais because of the migrant problems in the French port. The VIIA Britanica service was due to start operations from Le Boulou on the French-Spanish border on 12 January.
While extensive safety training has taken place in the past few weeks by rail teams and the police – during which no major incident was reported – “the exercises highlighted the need to double check with all actors the safety measures for rail traffic in Calais.”
“The Port Boulogne Calais and SNCF have made additional proposals to the French State in order to further reduce risks of incident,” VIIA added. VIIA Britanica and its partners are now worjking to ensure a launch “as soon as possible”, it added.
The UK’s Freight Transport Association pointed out that the new service would use a section of track running close to the Jungle Camp, with trains travelling at less than 12mph as they approach the port.
At a press conference to launch the new service at Multimodal 2015, a VIIA spokesman said that measures would be taken to ensure that the trains moved rapidly through the vulnerable area. Evidently, it has not proved possible to operate trains at high enough speeds to deter stowaways jumping aboard until the safety of the port security fence has been reached.
FTA’s EU affairs manager, Chris Yarsley, said: “This is yet another example of this vital trade route being affected by the actions of the migrants in Calais. The French government needs to move the camp away from the port as soon as possible and ensure the area is secure for transport operators.
“This will affect those who ship by road, rail and sea. We need to move freight off the roads and onto rail – this isn’t going to help achieve that aim.
“Our members have endured months of delays, disruptions and threats to their personal safety while travelling through Calais. This situation cannot be allowed to continue to adversely affect the livelihoods of transport operators who need to use this route.”
A Eurotunnel spokesman described VIIA Britanica as “a very poorly thought-out scheme.” Trains would have to come into Frethun yard to switch from electric to diesel traction and then proceed at low speed, under diesel power, passing close to the Calais migrants’ ‘Jungle’ camp as they did so.
In the return direction, trains would crawl past the Jungle on their way back to Frethun, which is next to the Eurotunnel security fence providing what the Eurotunnel spokesman described as “a migrant taxi service” to the sensitive Eurotunnel security cordon.
Eurotunnel argues that a through train to a London area terminal via the High Speed 1 route – similar to DB Schenker’s intermodal service from Poland to Barking – would be a much better solution. The spokesman pointed out that Eurotunnel’s new pricing structure offers attractive pricing for freight trains through the Tunnel, although uit would also be necessary to obtain scarce train parths on the High Speed 1 passenger line from the Tunnel to London, as this is the only rail route in the UK with a loading gauge large enough to handle piggyback trains.
Calais port has also provided considerable funding for the VIIA Britanica project, and a through rail service would not provide traffic for ferries in the same way as a service terminating at the port.

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