Brittany Ferries has approved a ‘rail motorway’ project linking Poole, Portsmouth and Rosslare to Cherbourg, which would replace a 920-kilometre road journey with rail.
Operated by Brittany Ferries, the ‘rail motorway’ with maritime connections will allow unaccompanied trailers to transit from Ireland and the United Kingdom to the Iberian Peninsula and vice versa, reducing the number of vehicles passing through France by road by around 25,000 per year.
The intermodal freight project was initially announced in February 2020, shortly before the COVID-19 health crisis, which resulted in a two-year reduction in ferry services and a project delay. Brittany Ferries now plans to launch the freight link by mid-2024, and has backing from national, European, and domestic regional authorities.
Jean-Marc Roué, Brittany Ferries’ President said: “A few days ago I gave the green light, formally committing Brittany Ferries to the various partners of the Cherbourg-Mouguerre rail project. As we enter this new phase, with the signing of the framework agreement between Brittany Ferries and SNCF Réseau, we can now secure the train slots for our services for the first five years of operation.
“Thanks to the support of the Ministry of Transport in the governments of Édouard Philippe and Jean Castex, under the presidency of Emmanuel Macron, we are finally able to make these ‘rail motorways’ a reality. During the five-year presidency, the French executive has shown strong and unwavering support for modal shift.
“Shifting freight from road to rail is something that many have talked about. But with this President of the Republic, it’s become a reality, forming part of our recovery plan. I welcome these political decisions which accelerate the future of low-carbon freight transport.”
The development of two rail freight terminals in Cherbourg and Mouguerre, as well as the procurement of sustainable Modealohr wagons and specialised loading equipment, are all part of the planning for rail operations using the French rail network.
François Lhomme, CEO of Lohr Group said: “We’ve been eagerly awaiting the launch of this emblematic and ambitious project. It will allow Brittany Ferries to extend its services along the Atlantic Coast using Modalohr wagons to carry trailers.
“The project was announced along with two other new rail motorways by Prime Minister Jean Castex in July 2020. It was then backed by Minister for Transport Jean-Baptiste Djebbari. This has allowed us to relaunch industrial production.
“We’re proud and happy that Brittany Ferries has selected our Modalohr technology for this project, recognising our excellence and know-how. The project will contribute to the Government’s ambition to double rail freight’s modal share by 2030, from 9 to 18 per cent.”
Since 2003, the LOHR Modalohr wagons have allowed almost two million vehicles to be switched from European highways to trains, resulting in a 2 million-tonne reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
Some sections of the route are not yet electrified. Initially, diesel locomotives will pull the trains, but in the future, they may be replaced with dual-mode locomotives, further cutting emissions.