​​Demonstration in Paris to save rail freight ‘for the planet and jobs’

Archival image. Source: Shutterstock. GERARD BOTTINO

A demonstration will be held in Paris today, Tuesday, 28 May, to save rail freight “for the planet and jobs.” The protest is being staged by a platform grouping labour unions, Sud Rail, environmental protection and social justice associations, the Alliance Ecologique et Sociale, and Alternatiba Paris.

The demonstration focuses on the impact of the liquidation of French State Railways SNCF’s subsidiary, Fret SNCF, following an agreement reached last year between France and the European Commission on the rail freight operator’s debts.

Ahead of today’s demo, the platform said: “Fret SNCF is being prepared for liquidation by the end of 2024. To avoid an environmental disaster, save rail freight and keep more lorries off the roads, we need to put pressure on the government as a matter of urgency. At a time when we should be investing in and revitalising the rail freight sector, an essential tool for the environmental transition, the government is doing exactly the opposite.”

The platform claims that winding up Fret SNCF means more trucks on the roads. It underlined that in the absence of companies ready to take on the relinquished traffic routes, shippers will prefer to transfer their freight to road. Moreover, the most financially viable ones will be taken over by foreign companies, but maintenance of the rail network will remain the responsibility of the taxpayer.

Radical or sensible proposals?

According to its estimates, Fret SNCF’s discontinuity will lead to an additional 300,000-520,000 truck journeys on French roads annually, generating 460,000 tonnes of CO2.

Among the platform’s demands is the proposal to deduct 1 billion euros annually from the profits of companies running France’s toll motorways. This would be used to invest in the development of rail freight infrastructure.

The platform also supports introducing a green tax on HGVs in transit if road hauliers refuse to switch to other modes of transport. This would be paid into a national investment fund for rail and ocean freight projects. Another proposal is to prohibit the construction of new logistics zones if they are not connected to the rail network.

New companies underway

While the liquidation of Fret SNCF is at the heart of the agreement between France and the European Commission, it also makes provision for creating two new companies (rail freight transport and maintenance) from January 2025.

At the end of last year, Fret SNCF’s commercial and marketing director, Edouard Laverny, said work on building the commercial strategy of the new rail freight entity – whose name has yet to be revealed – was underway.

It would be partly focused on “ new markets where customers are looking for low-carbon logistics solutions, such as consumer goods manufacturers, logistics providers and road hauliers, as well as the renewable energy industry, where there is no shortage of projects under development,” he said.

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.