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New wagons bring European piggyback services a step closer

[ November 22, 2011   //   ]

‘Piggyback’-style operation between Spain and the UK has moved a step closer with the authorisation of the Modalohr type wagon for use in the Channel Tunnel.

Modalohr wagons, built by LOHR Industries, are already used on dedicated rail freight corridors across France. Their low level, articulated design allows side loading of trucks at special terminals and they do not have canopies or superstructures of the type until now imposed for Eurotunnel’s Shuttles.

Moreover, authorisation of the Modalohr wagons will allow the planned Autoroute ferroviaire atlantique to be connected directly to the Channel Tunnel. Supported by the Aquitaine, Poitou Charentes in France and the Euskadi region of Northern Spain, the AFA scheme aims to create a ‘rolling motorway’ route from Vitoria in Spain via the Paris region to northern France. Timescale for the first part of the project is given as 2016/17.

This is the first time since the opening of the Tunnel in 1994 that new railway rolling stock has been approved by the Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC). The move forms part of Eurotunnel’s strategy to apply the European Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSI) to the Channel Tunnel to boost rail freight between the UK and continental Europe. Eurotunnel added: “It is an essential addition to the open access policy operated by Eurotunnel which has, amongst other things, already seen the halving of access charges.” The latter though are still the subject of considerable criticism by the industry, which argues that Eurotunnel’s high access charges are stifling growth of rail freight through the Tunnel.

Nevertheless, said Eurotunnel chairman and chief executive Jacques Gounon, “The application of the European Technical Standards for Interoperability to the Channel Tunnel will enable the development of rail freight traffic which could alone meet up to a quarter of the French Government’s environmental objectives.”