Freight News, Rail

Calais opens trailer-train terminal

[ October 23, 2015   //   ]

The Port of Boulogne-Calais officially opened its new Rail Motorway Terminal on 23 October, saying it had become the first in Europe to have such a facility. The Rail Motorway Terminal is the first stage in a strategy to develop the transport of unaccompanied semi-trailers and will, from January 2016, be the northern terminus of a new lorry-carrying train service from Le Boulou on the French-Spanish frontier.
The VIIA Britanica line operated by French Railways logistics subsidiary, will provide a link to the UK via the Dover-Calais ferries for unaccompanied semi-trailer traffic, a project launched by then Minister of Transport, Frédéric Cuvillier in September 2013.
The €7 million high tech rail terminal,has been financed jointly by the Port of Boulogne-Calais and the European Union. A new zone has also been created to receive the trains arriving from the south directly within the port area and allow checks to be carried out on all semi-trailers unloaded from the trains before transport to their final destination.
It has been specially designed to receive the latest generation of side-loading rail wagons, produced by the French manufacturer Lohr Industrie, to simplify and speed up the loading and unloading process. Trailers are towed directly onto the wagons instead of being lifted by crane as used in existing systems, which requires specially reinforced trailers.
According to the port, the new VIIA Britanica service will be the longest rail motorway in Europe (avoiding 1,200 km of journey by road) and will lead to the transfer of 40,000 trailers from road to rail every year, saving 50 million km of road travel by truck and cutting CO2 emissions by nearly 50,000 tonnes per year.
The opening of this terminal and the inauguration on 12 January 2016 of the VIIA Britanica service is only the latest stage in the construction of the VIIA network. VIIA Britanica will be the third Rail Motorway line in France, joining the already existing lines between Bettembourg (Luxembourg) and Le Boulou, and between Aiton (near Chambéry) and Orbassano (near Turin, Italy).
Rail Freight Group chairman and board member of the European Rail Freight association, Tony Berkeley, while welcoming the creation of more competition on French rails, did though question why the trailer-train service could not be extended through the Channel Tunnel to a UK terminal. The High Speed 1 link from the Tunnel to the London area could carry large-gauge freight trains and indeed already carries a few such services. “It doesn’t seem logical to stop the service when the destination for the traffic is the UK,” he said. Berkeley surmised that the continued difficulties in operating freight trains through the Tunnel had put the operator off.
Through rail freight in the Tunnel is currently in a bad way, with perhaps only about a third of trains now operating due to the disruption caused by migrant incursions. Before the crisis, rail traffic had been growing quite strongly but now all the work of the past few years had been undone. In fact, through rail freight between the Continent and UK is no higher than in the days of the train ferry, in the early 1990s said Berkeley.
“The question now is whether there will be any through rail freight left in six months’ time,” he told FBJ.

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