End of the line for France’s iconic fresh produce train

The Rungis International Market in Paris. Image: Shutterstock. Emily Geraghty.

The so-called train des primeurs operated by Fret SNCF, which carries fresh fruit and vegetables from Perpignan, in southwest France, to Paris, is to be withdrawn. However, the service could return in 2026 under a new form after the construction of a combined transport terminal at the French capital’s Rungis wholesale market.

The seasonal service was operated five days weekly between October and June. “It should stop shortly if it hasn’t already,” a spokesperson for Rail Logistics Europe (RLE), the umbrella structure grouping all of the SNCF Group’s rail freight and logistics operations, confirmed to Railfreight.com.

The train des primeurs is one of 23 traffic routes being relinquished by Fret SNCF under a discontinuity plan which followed an agreement between France and the European Union over the rail freight operator’s debts.

Costly service

The service’s 14 refrigerated wagons are viewed as being obsolete and costly to maintain. Moreover, the train returns empty from Rungis to Perpignan and is also handicapped economically by the fact that it only operates seasonally.

The service was mothballed between 2019 and 2020 but re-opened after large-scale support for its resumption, notably from political circles. France’s Prime Minister at the time, Jean Castex, was one of its fervent supporters.

Not a welcome development

News that the service is to be discontinued drew an angry response from Pascal Savoldelli, French senator for the Val-de-Marne département, who said its withdrawal would add 20,000 trucks to the roads of the Greater Paris region. “It’s incomprehensible, and yet this is what’s going to happen at Rungis,” he warned, going on to claim that the European Commission had imposed such an outcome.

Last month, the French government issued a call for tender for the resumption of the service in 2026, with a deadline for applications of 19 July 2024, according to French media. In an X post, France’s minister of Transport, Patrice Vergriete, said: “Work is going to be carried out at Rungis to increase and modernise capacity for combined rail freight! The primeurs train remains more of a priority than ever.”

New operator in case service returns

The Rail Logistics Europe spokesperson also confirmed to Railfreight.com that the new rail freight company set to enter service at the beginning of 2025 following the dissolution of Fret SNCF would not be a candidate to run the future primeur train service. “This is a market segment that the new company won’t be able to compete in for a period of 10 years (under the terms of the agreement between France and the European Commission).”

Providing an update on the discontinuity plan of Fret SNCF and the 23 traffic routes to be relinquished, the spokesperson noted: “15 have already been taken on by new operators while seven (the train primeurs being excluded) will follow by the end of the month. The remaining one is the subject of a request for an extension until the end of the year, which is permitted under the discontinuity plan.”

The spokesperson also revealed that VIIA, RLE’s intermodal subsidiary, which operates so-called ‘piggyback’ services for semi-trailers, has found traction suppliers for all of its lines. “However, I can’t go into detail, but it’s essentially DB Cargo France that provides traction.”

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Author: Stuart Todd

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End of the line for France’s iconic fresh produce train | RailFreight.com

End of the line for France’s iconic fresh produce train

The Rungis International Market in Paris. Image: Shutterstock. Emily Geraghty.

The so-called train des primeurs operated by Fret SNCF, which carries fresh fruit and vegetables from Perpignan, in southwest France, to Paris, is to be withdrawn. However, the service could return in 2026 under a new form after the construction of a combined transport terminal at the French capital’s Rungis wholesale market.

The seasonal service was operated five days weekly between October and June. “It should stop shortly if it hasn’t already,” a spokesperson for Rail Logistics Europe (RLE), the umbrella structure grouping all of the SNCF Group’s rail freight and logistics operations, confirmed to Railfreight.com.

The train des primeurs is one of 23 traffic routes being relinquished by Fret SNCF under a discontinuity plan which followed an agreement between France and the European Union over the rail freight operator’s debts.

Costly service

The service’s 14 refrigerated wagons are viewed as being obsolete and costly to maintain. Moreover, the train returns empty from Rungis to Perpignan and is also handicapped economically by the fact that it only operates seasonally.

The service was mothballed between 2019 and 2020 but re-opened after large-scale support for its resumption, notably from political circles. France’s Prime Minister at the time, Jean Castex, was one of its fervent supporters.

Not a welcome development

News that the service is to be discontinued drew an angry response from Pascal Savoldelli, French senator for the Val-de-Marne département, who said its withdrawal would add 20,000 trucks to the roads of the Greater Paris region. “It’s incomprehensible, and yet this is what’s going to happen at Rungis,” he warned, going on to claim that the European Commission had imposed such an outcome.

Last month, the French government issued a call for tender for the resumption of the service in 2026, with a deadline for applications of 19 July 2024, according to French media. In an X post, France’s minister of Transport, Patrice Vergriete, said: “Work is going to be carried out at Rungis to increase and modernise capacity for combined rail freight! The primeurs train remains more of a priority than ever.”

New operator in case service returns

The Rail Logistics Europe spokesperson also confirmed to Railfreight.com that the new rail freight company set to enter service at the beginning of 2025 following the dissolution of Fret SNCF would not be a candidate to run the future primeur train service. “This is a market segment that the new company won’t be able to compete in for a period of 10 years (under the terms of the agreement between France and the European Commission).”

Providing an update on the discontinuity plan of Fret SNCF and the 23 traffic routes to be relinquished, the spokesperson noted: “15 have already been taken on by new operators while seven (the train primeurs being excluded) will follow by the end of the month. The remaining one is the subject of a request for an extension until the end of the year, which is permitted under the discontinuity plan.”

The spokesperson also revealed that VIIA, RLE’s intermodal subsidiary, which operates so-called ‘piggyback’ services for semi-trailers, has found traction suppliers for all of its lines. “However, I can’t go into detail, but it’s essentially DB Cargo France that provides traction.”

You just read one of our premium articles free of charge

Want full access? Take advantage of our exclusive offer

See the offer

Author: Stuart Todd

Stuart Todd is a correspondent and frequent contributor for RailFreight.com

Add your comment

characters remaining.

Log in through one of the following social media partners to comment.