Wednesday, March 30, 2016

New Intermodal Link for Cross Channel Freight with Road Haulage and Rail Link Up

Spain, France and the UK Joined by New Service VIIA Britanica
Shipping News Feature
UK – FRANCE – SPAIN – Last year the Port of Calais installed a new €7 million intermodal rail terminal specifically designed to transfer freight units from freight trains onto cross-Channel ferries. Now P&O Ferries has reached agreement with the French rail operator VIIA, a subsidiary of SNCF, to provide transport across the English Channel for unaccompanied freight arriving on a new train service between the Franco-Spanish border and Calais, named VIIA Britanica.

The new intermodal service, which will provide a direct link to the UK for exporters in the Mediterranean, carried its first unaccompanied road trailers early this morning and the partners in the venture claim the potential of the rail service between Le Boulou, on the Franco-Spanish border, and Calais at an estimated 40,000 units per year. Janette Bell, Chief Commercial Officer at P&O Ferries, commented:

"This initiative is a prime example of the need for seamless rail and sea solutions to ensure that goods can access the United Kingdom from all corners of the continent. London is the biggest city in Europe and Britain’s economy is continuing to grow. There are a significant number of exporters of fruit, vegetables and components for production lines who will benefit from this direct link between the Mediterranean and mainland Britain.”

VIIA Britanica will initially run one round-trip six days per week between Le Boulou and Calais, using trains that will traverse the length of France to connect the two intermodal terminals in 22 hours. The trains have the capacity to carry 40 units each and frequency is expected to increase to two round-trips per day later in the spring.

The new service is a tangible reminder of how the migrant situation has affected commerce in the region. The original launch date for this new service was to have been 12 January but security concerns caused the operators to coordinate with police and at government level to ensure the security of the rail transit system. We watch with interest to see if this new service adds a further level of difficulty for the already hard pressed security and Border Control teams required to ensure no stowaways are carried unwittingly.

Despite all the problems which dogged Calais last year times are proving good for P&O and, as we reported in January, 2015 saw the company hit record totals for freight carriage between the French port and Dover.