French rail freight players run rule over 4 billion euro investment plan

Image: Shutterstock. Fly_and_Dive.

A major investment programme totalling 4 billion euros to develop rail freight in France is due to be finalised later this year. Two of France’s leading rail freight executives tell Railfreight.com what they think of this funding package, which runs to 2032 and is seen as a key element in doubling the sector’s modal share to around 18 per cent over that period.

Named Ulysse Fret, the programme makes provision to focus spending on tracks and marshalling yards, capillary lines, branch terminals, digitalisation, loading gauge modernisation, combined transport platforms and network capacity enhancement, with the latter category earmarked to receive more than half of the funding.

The 4 billion euro programme will be made up of 2 billion euros invested directly by the French state and 2 billion euros in co-financing from French regions and the EU, as well as from private sector sources.

The collaborative venture brings together France’s rail network manager, SNCF Réseau, the state directorate for Infrastructures, Transport and Mobility (DGITM), and the members of the 4F rail freight alliance. It builds on a national strategy for the sector unveiled in 2020, which recommended some 73 measures.

Also read: France’s rail freight sector voices strong opposition to ‘mega’ trucks

Multimodal platforms top priority

France’s combined transport association, the Groupement National des Transports Combinés (GNTC), a member of the 4F alliance, is directly involved in Ulysse Fret, participating in the discussion and decision-making process.

“The GNTC’s priorities for the programme are the creation, modernisation and expansion of multimodal platforms to increase the capacity of the existing fleet. It should be remembered that combined transport is the market segment with the highest growth potential – scope to triple its size over a 10-year period,” explained its director, Aurélien Barbé.

“We are involved in the programme’s combined transport and semi-trailer transport master plans piloted by the DGITM. We provide market insights and highlight the needs of operators and combi platforms.”

Also read: French first and last-mile operators need state aid to survive Frejus closure

Infrastructure for P400s

Another priority for GNTC in Ulysse Fret is the modernisation of gauges, in particular the P400 gauge for transporting four meter-high semi-trailers on standard wagons on the network, added Barbé.

“This means adapting the current network (bridges, tunnels, etc.), as well as the length of trains so that we can have convoys of 750 or even 850 meters, which will increase productivity in the sector. Lastly, there is the major issue of adapting the rail network and freeing up freight path capacity.”

Problematic implementation timeframe

For his part, Alexandre Gallo, President and CEO of DB Cargo France and President of the Association Française du Rail (AFRA), described the programme as an important step as rail freight in France has never before received such support for its network.” DB Cargo is also a member of the 4F alliance.

He said the aim is to jointly decide on the investments needed to ensure the sector undergoes a dynamic development. Several aspects are being addressed, including combined transport (mainly terminals), capacity issues (train paths and gauges), capillary lines, and IT management tools’ digitalisation.

“However, the programme’s timeframe is rather worrying, as the work on gauges, for example, is not scheduled to take place before 2032, and this is an extremely important measure for the modal shift from road to rail,” stressed Gallo. “In addition, the report on the programme is not expected to be completed before the last quarter of 2024, as SNCF Réseau is behind schedule with the costing,” he underlined.

GNTC’s Barbé revealed that the current focus is agreeing on the list of projects to appear in the programme’s final report, which is scheduled to be made public in September 2024.

“This is a significant sum of investment that could have a real impact on the development of rail freight and combined transport in France, but we still need to get these projects off the ground quickly. For example, they can be included within the framework of the regular multi-year investment plans (CPERs) signed between the French state and regional government authorities, and private sector funding can be found. That’s the next stage, and we’re working on it right now.”

Also read: SNCF chief to step down amid retirement deal controversy

Author: Stuart Todd

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

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French rail freight players run rule over 4 billion euro investment plan | RailFreight.com

French rail freight players run rule over 4 billion euro investment plan

Image: Shutterstock. Fly_and_Dive.

A major investment programme totalling 4 billion euros to develop rail freight in France is due to be finalised later this year. Two of France’s leading rail freight executives tell Railfreight.com what they think of this funding package, which runs to 2032 and is seen as a key element in doubling the sector’s modal share to around 18 per cent over that period.

Named Ulysse Fret, the programme makes provision to focus spending on tracks and marshalling yards, capillary lines, branch terminals, digitalisation, loading gauge modernisation, combined transport platforms and network capacity enhancement, with the latter category earmarked to receive more than half of the funding.

The 4 billion euro programme will be made up of 2 billion euros invested directly by the French state and 2 billion euros in co-financing from French regions and the EU, as well as from private sector sources.

The collaborative venture brings together France’s rail network manager, SNCF Réseau, the state directorate for Infrastructures, Transport and Mobility (DGITM), and the members of the 4F rail freight alliance. It builds on a national strategy for the sector unveiled in 2020, which recommended some 73 measures.

Also read: France’s rail freight sector voices strong opposition to ‘mega’ trucks

Multimodal platforms top priority

France’s combined transport association, the Groupement National des Transports Combinés (GNTC), a member of the 4F alliance, is directly involved in Ulysse Fret, participating in the discussion and decision-making process.

“The GNTC’s priorities for the programme are the creation, modernisation and expansion of multimodal platforms to increase the capacity of the existing fleet. It should be remembered that combined transport is the market segment with the highest growth potential – scope to triple its size over a 10-year period,” explained its director, Aurélien Barbé.

“We are involved in the programme’s combined transport and semi-trailer transport master plans piloted by the DGITM. We provide market insights and highlight the needs of operators and combi platforms.”

Also read: French first and last-mile operators need state aid to survive Frejus closure

Infrastructure for P400s

Another priority for GNTC in Ulysse Fret is the modernisation of gauges, in particular the P400 gauge for transporting four meter-high semi-trailers on standard wagons on the network, added Barbé.

“This means adapting the current network (bridges, tunnels, etc.), as well as the length of trains so that we can have convoys of 750 or even 850 meters, which will increase productivity in the sector. Lastly, there is the major issue of adapting the rail network and freeing up freight path capacity.”

Problematic implementation timeframe

For his part, Alexandre Gallo, President and CEO of DB Cargo France and President of the Association Française du Rail (AFRA), described the programme as an important step as rail freight in France has never before received such support for its network.” DB Cargo is also a member of the 4F alliance.

He said the aim is to jointly decide on the investments needed to ensure the sector undergoes a dynamic development. Several aspects are being addressed, including combined transport (mainly terminals), capacity issues (train paths and gauges), capillary lines, and IT management tools’ digitalisation.

“However, the programme’s timeframe is rather worrying, as the work on gauges, for example, is not scheduled to take place before 2032, and this is an extremely important measure for the modal shift from road to rail,” stressed Gallo. “In addition, the report on the programme is not expected to be completed before the last quarter of 2024, as SNCF Réseau is behind schedule with the costing,” he underlined.

GNTC’s Barbé revealed that the current focus is agreeing on the list of projects to appear in the programme’s final report, which is scheduled to be made public in September 2024.

“This is a significant sum of investment that could have a real impact on the development of rail freight and combined transport in France, but we still need to get these projects off the ground quickly. For example, they can be included within the framework of the regular multi-year investment plans (CPERs) signed between the French state and regional government authorities, and private sector funding can be found. That’s the next stage, and we’re working on it right now.”

Also read: SNCF chief to step down amid retirement deal controversy

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Author: Stuart Todd

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

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