Ambitious French freight project might be close to its end
The ambitious French railway cooperative project Railcoop seems to be facing hick ups that will lead to its rail freight services suspension. The financial non-viability of cargo services will probably force the project to focus solely on passenger transport.
French media have reported that this was a decision drawn during the latest board meeting of the cooperative a few days ago. Reports claim that high operating costs and the lack of state support pushed the project to its limits and made its freight services unfeasible.
In a quote to the French publication VRT, Railcoop’s CEO Nicolas Debaisieux said that a transport contract which concludes at the end of April allowed the cooperative to reapproach its strategy. As he mentioned, this contract concerns the service between Capdenac and Saint-Jory, serving the customer Fiber excellence.
This is a service that has been running for some time already. However, a new service that would commence in mid-April and connect Saint-Jory and Gignac will remain in the planning stage since Railcoop could not secure a steady clientele. These latest developments are a substantial setback for the project that kicked off two years ago.
The Railcoop cooperative
Railcoop has a long story. It was created in November 2019 by 32 members who were the project’s pioneers. It is the first rail cooperative launched in France with the ambition to promote rail mobility by involving “citizens, communities, businesses and railway workers, to develop railway transport adapted to the needs of all regions”.
The idea attracted 9,140 members in two years, including around 100 companies and associations and 12 communities, such as the agglomeration communities of Libourne, Vichy and Montluçon. The cooperative’s main objective was to launch short-distance and regional services based on single wagonload traffic connecting regions off the railway grid and rejuvenating unused lines.
In November 2021, the cooperative launched its first rail freight service connecting the economic centres of Toulouse (Saint-Jory) and Decazeville (Capdenac) and leased 24 wagons from Ermewa and two locomotives from DB Cargo to operate it. With the end of freight services, Railcoop is set to return this equipment to its lessors.