Thursday, September 17, 2009

France Announce Rail Freight Plan For The Future

Massive Investment To Update Logistics Infrastructure
Shipping News Feature

FRANCE – SNCF France’s state owned railway will spend billions of Euros in the next five years to upgrade and improve its cargo carrying capability. The figures being bandied about vary wildly but, what is certain, is that a large share of the money earmarked for state investment by the Government last month, will be used to promote growth in the sector.

France runs the second largest freight rail network in Europe but has lost traffic to road and foreign rail services steadily over the past few years. The new plans are likely to include dedicated “rail motorways” with the intention to almost double tonnage carried within 10 years or so. Currently the rail system carries 14% of freight traffic throughout the country against the 21% carried around a decade ago.

The national subsidy cash is part of President Sarkozy’s “Eco Loan” which is designed to increase productivity whilst reducing CO2 emissions. Despite recent additional state aid SNCF have steadily lost ground against road hauliers and it is hoped the reported figures of circa €1.5 billion up to €12 billion available for infrastructure improvements over the next few years will reverse the trend.

Expect the usual French labour problems as SNCF unveil the plans in their entirety next week. Despite the new developments and schemes for port restructuring at Le Havre and La Rochelle it is anticipated that up to 6,000 of the staff from the 14,000 SCNF freight employees may have to be cut. The Government had already reformed logistics services, including privatising container handling, in an effort to encourage more operators to use the country as a freight hub to compete with Dutch and Belgian ports.