A new rail-ferry freight service between the UK and south-west France to serve Spain is to go ahead after a two-year delay due to the pandemic.
The project, led by Brittany Ferries, involves shipping unaccompanied road trailers from Portsmouth and Poole to Cherbourg, and from Rosslare to Cherbourg, where they will be transferred onto trains that will run to Bayonne.
New freight terminals will be built in the port of Cherbourg and at the European Freight Centre at Mouguerre (outside Bayonne).
The idea was first announced in early 2020, just before the pandemic. As the border became heavily restricted by COVID, Brittany Ferries reduced cross-Channel sailings for two years. The French ferry firm only resumed a full schedule on all routes last month (April).
Branded a “rail motorway”, the launch is now expected by mid-2024, having originally been planned for summer 2022.
French rail network operator SNCF will facilitate return journeys six or seven days a week, using two trains. The service is particularly aimed at fresh fruit and vegetable hauliers to the UK and Ireland. It will be managed by Brittany Ferries, which says it will “effectively become a rail operator”.
The aim is to cut the number of lorries making the road trip by 25,000 a year. A 970km rail journey (603 miles) will compete against a 920km road journey. Four tunnels on the route will require modification.
The project has financial support from the French Government, the European Union, and the regions of Normandie and Nouvelle Aquitaine.
Full story, RAIL 956.