On 6 November 2018, the operation of a new rail motorway service linking the Port of Calais and Orbassano in the suburbs of Turin, Italy, was inaugurated in the presence of Élisabeth Borne, Minister for Transport, attached to the Minister of State, Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, Natacha Bouchart, Mayor of Calais, Jean-Marc Puissesseau, President and CEO of Port Boulogne Calais, Guillaume Pepy, Chairman of the SNCF Executive Board, and Thierry Le Guilloux, Chairman of VIIA (rail motorway operator for the SNCF Group). It will help to transfer no less than 31,000 trucks from the road to rail.
The service uses the existing terminals at the Port of Calais and in Orbassano and is operated by two railway undertakings: Fret SNCF for the French section and Mercitalia (the FS Italiane Group) for the Italian section. Connections with the Calais ferry services to and from the United Kingdom have been suggested, which would enable unaccompanied semi-trailers to be transported directly to Italy, via France.
More than 30,000 trucks transferred to rail
From its launch, the new service will provide three weekly round trips connecting Calais to Orbassano, covering a distance of 1,150 km in 18 hours. When fully operational, the new rail motorway will run two round trips a day.
Thierry Le Guilloux, Chairman of VIIA said: “This new rail motorway line between Calais and Turin Orbassano builds on the existing service in Spain. It represents the culmination of work by the VIIA teams, the Port of Calais and Fret SNCF, and is fantastic news for the development of unaccompanied semi-trailer transport in Europe.”
The service, open to all trailer types, could save around 1.2 tonnes of CO2 per trailer per trip, which equates to an annual saving of 37,200 tonnes of CO2.
Collaboration with Boulogne Calais Port
The new Calais – Turin Orbassano line will strengthen the collaboration between Boulogne Calais Port, VIIA and the SNCF Group. The Calais rail motorway terminal, which opened in March 2016, is a unique port facility in Europe. The first VIIA Britannica line connects Calais to Le Boulou on the Franco-Spanish border and services run up to twice daily in each direction.
Jean-Marc Puissesseau, Chairman and CEO of Port Boulogne Calais said: “The launch of this new route confirms our vision of developing unaccompanied trailer traffic in the years to come as well as our willingness to support it. With the opening of this new service offered by our partner VIIA, the Port of Calais is becoming the main hub for sea/road/rail interconnections between the north and the south of Europe, and can deliver intermodal solutions to our freight customers within the port itself.”
The SNCF Group has tasked VIIA with developing rail motorways in France and Europe.
In the words of Guillaume Pepy, Chairman of the SNCF Executive Board: “The rail motorway services provided by VIIA are an extremely effective tool for shifting from road to rail and for fighting greenhouse gas emissions. Thanks to VIIA, the rail sector is adapting to the world of road transport: all semi-trailers can be loaded without any investment from road transport providers, while still offering competitive trip times.”
In 2017, 106,747 units (semi-trailers, mobile bodies or containers) were transported by VIIA, saving 75,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
As well as the services departing from Calais, two additional services contribute to the development of the modal shift offered by VIIA. In collaboration with Mercitalia, the Aiton (Chambéry) – Orbassano line has been covering the 175 km between France and Italy in three hours since 2003 and offers four round trips a day. In partnership with the Luxembourgish National Railway Company (CFL), the Bettembourg (Lux) – Le Boulou Perpignan line, which has been running since 2007, offers three round trips a day, covering a distance of 1,045 km in 15 hours.
Minister of Transport Élisabeth Borne said: “Rail motorways are an excellent way to ensure the transition to more eco-friendly freight transport and the modal shift of trucks to rail. This launch is a striking symbol of the government’s strong commitment to promoting rail freight, as demonstrated by the significant decisions taken over the past few months, including limiting freight toll increases to the level of inflation, and of the confidence that we have in this clean and efficient transport mode.”