ERFA welcomes French rail freight sidings grant
The European Commission’s 60 million Euros state aid grant for new rail freight sidings in France has been hailed as an example of modal shift support for governments to follow.
Lobbying body the European Rail Freight Association (ERFA) has strongly welcomed the grant announcement as a ‘welcome development’ in the French Government’s support for an eco-friendly rail freight sector. The money is for the establishment, renewal and extension of freight sidings infrastructure across the country.
“ERFA believes that if rail freight is to develop and grow it requires national governments to actively support sustainable investment in rail freight and to increase rail’s competitiveness vis-a-vis the road sector’s sustainable investment initiative into rail sidings,” it said in a statement.
Similar grants already exist in Switzerland and Germany, where the European Union’s objectives relating to modal shift are strongly supported by the respective governments. The French rail sidings market is in a particularly difficult situation, as around 50 per cent of the 2,500 to 3,000 rail sidings are out of service.
Many industries are facing aging sidings which may lead to closure due to prohibitive maintenance or renewal costs, hampering rail freight operations in the future.
“ERFA hopes that this initiative is part of a long term modal shift policy where rail freight no longer takes second place to passenger transport. It is clear that the investment initiative must also be accompanied by improved flexibility in the offer and management of paths, by getting the constantly increasing path costs under control and by a better quality of rail freight paths. ERFA will also continue to fight against the capillary network closure which represents 20 per cent of the French rail freight volume.”
“ERFA will remain attentive to ensure that the public subsidy for rail freight is allocated on a neutral and transparent basis, thereby supporting a competitive rail sector in France. It is also essential that the refurbished sidings are available for access by all operators on a transparent and non-discriminatory basis, in line with the new EU rules designed to strengthen the role of the rail facilities market in supporting rail’s growth.”