On 2 and 3 November, the International Union of Railways (UIC) and the International Freight Forwarders’ Association (FIATA) held the third edition of the Market Place Seminar with the support of the Spanish railways (RENFE), French railways (Fret SNCF) and the Port of Barcelona.
More than 100 people from 15 countries participated in the seminar entitled “The French-Iberian rail link – fostering European connectivity”, which dealt with the opportunities and challenges arising from the opening of the new UIC standard gauge (1435 mm) railway line between Barcelona and the French border. “We are really pleased with the seminar. All the relevant stakeholders were present and we had excellent discussions among the participants. This shows a strong interest in rail transport. After these two days I am convinced that rail transport’s market share will increase between Spain and France”, says Oliver Sellnick, UIC Freight Director.
The new line, expected to be inaugurated in mid-December 2010, will allow the railways to operate longer trains (750 metres as opposed to the previous line’s capacity of 450 metres) between Spain and France. As previously, no transhipment of the goods will be required at the border.
Among the high level speakers from railway undertakings, freight forwarders and shipping lines were Manuel Acero, the newly-appointed CEO of RENFE Freight, Sylvie Charles, CEO of Fret SNCF, and Jose Luis González, Land Operations Chief of Port of Barcelona, who provided their vision of how the new UIC standard gauge line will impact the railways’ market.
Manuel Acero informed participants that RENFE Freight had already decided to leverage the new line’s characteristics to their maximum by investing in 6 new locomotives (4 tri-voltage electric locomotives and 2 diesel locomotives) and wagons for operation between Spain and France.
Sylvie Charles stressed that Spain is a very attractive market and explained that Fret SNCF was open to all kinds of partnerships. Currently, Fret SNCF is assessing all the solutions allowing dynamic use of this new rail link between Perpignan and Barcelona, with the aim of increasing rail transport’s productivity and market share in trade between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe.
Jose Luis González, Land Operations Chief of the Port of Barcelona, described the port’s ambitious investment plan. The port is forecasting a growth in rail transport and its long-term goal is to increase rail’s share of hinterland transport to 25%. The Port of Barcelona will invest €377 M in the near future and by 2013 the port’s railway area will have been tripled (expanded to 5 ha), with 6 tracks of 750m each all able to handle both gauges (mixed gauge tracks).
Participants in the seminar were also informed that several rail freight companies are already working on new products which will take advantage of the new line’s features. For example the Spanish-French rail link is of great interest for Trenitalia Cargo, which participates actively in the “Sustainable Iron and Steel Transport by European Railways” (SISTER) European project. The steel market is one of the leading sectors with considerable flows between Italy and Spain and here rail can play a pivotal role by offering the final customer competitive door-to-door solutions. Another example presented at the seminar is the “Barcelyon Express” (train service between Barcelona and Lyon) which, when the new line is opened, will transition its operations onto the new line with a service offer including more frequent departures (three services per week instead of two) and higher capacity (750 metre long container trains as opposed to 450 metres). Seminar participants were also informed that more regular services between Barcelona and other dry ports in France are under development.