The cargo rail or the lessons of a disaster

Analysis. It was the 28th of February. Guillaume Pepy égrenait the good results of the SNCF before addressing the issue of rail freight. An activity that has yet suffered 120 million euros of losses in 2017, mainly because of lower volumes of grain and steel… But “the SNCF is going to introduce in the spring a specific plan to relaunch this activity,” he added. Will-t-it of the fourth or the fifth recovery plan in fifteen years ? Nobody account.

The sector is affected for decades. The train had its golden age in the transport of goods during the post-war period and the ” thirty glorious years “, when the industry produced around the Hexagon.

With 75 % share of freight transport, the SNCF was a central player. Then, rail freight has collapsed in favour of the road because of deindustrialization, of the weakness of ports and the decline of the great chargers (mines, steel mills, etc). In 2016, the train has picked up 9.9% of goods transport, as compared to 88 % for the road.

The opening to the competition, which was decided in April 2006, has not helped. In ten years, the tonnage carried has increased from 37.9 billion tonnes per kilometre to 32.6 billion tons/kilometer. Worse, the rail freight has lost nearly two points of market share. The competition is the gravedigger of the cargo ? Not sure. It primarily seems to have slowed down the fall.

The freight companies that, in the first place, SNCF Fret, suffer before all of the state of the network, in full work. However, the freight trains travel mainly at night, when the are carried out such work. SNCF Fret, as its score of competitors – including the German DB Schenker or VFLI, a subsidiary of private law of the SNCF, therefore, difficult to float. Rare are the companies to be in balance. Only Europorte, a subsidiary of Getlink (ex Eurotunnel), and VFLI.


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