One of 9 European corridors, the North Sea-Mediterranean rail freight corridor has been in operation since November 2013. It is one of the most important rail routes in Europe and one of the most promising corridors.
At the heart of the strategic development of rail in Europe, it offers the Port of Marseille Fos an additional lever for the growth of its international rail traffic.
At the moment, nearly 34,000 trains run on the 4,600 km of lines, transporting over 20 million metric tons of freight. The results are very positive since the initial growth prospects for 2020 have already been reached (up 9%).
The North Sea-Mediterranean corridor connects major ports in Europe: Antwerp, Rotterdam, Dunkirk, Zeebrugge and Marseille – and in addition the main rail platforms on the route – to the industrial and consumer areas in Western Europe. It offers two gateways to Europe, via the northern ports and the southern ports. It is also an active driving force in rebalancing maritime flows at the level of this particular territory.
The goal is clear for the Port of Marseille Fos: facilitate rail transport from our terminals, be more efficient in order to reach distant markets, connect to our hinterland by encouraging massified loads, gain intermodal market shares, and encourage modal shift.
At the meeting held on 29 May at the Port of Marseille Fos, which was attended by numerous port stakeholders, Guillaume Confais-Morieux, Director General of the European North Sea-Mediterranean rail corridor, presented the corridor’s operation, actions and development prospects.
Rail freight traffic is particularly efficient in terms of economic logistics over long distances. Furthermore, international rail traffic is increasing in line with national traffic. This corridor is now the first in Europe in terms of the capacity allocated to rail companies on pre-arranged paths (PaP) with 7 million km / day distributed to European rail companies.
The extension of the corridor towards Switzerland was one of the important points raised during the meeting. Mr Confais-Morieux said, “Following the strong demand from stakeholders to develop the corridor in southern Switzerland, pre-arranged paths serving Geneva from Fos (1 train / day) have been put in place. We now hope these offers will be used. The annual expression of needs study enables the corridor to offer capacities on the basis of expected demand.”
There are high expectations for the corridor, and networking all the European corridors is key. “International freight traffic is developing, hence the need to work on more interoperable flows, with a common signalling system and harmonization of the ordering procedures”.
The corridor’s director also stressed, “Development prospects are linked to the capacity of the rail infrastructure which will necessarily involve investment to eventually increase rail freight traffic for better interoperability. Large-scale investments will therefore be necessary. Another measure being envisaged is to improve the quality of the offers available, and become a freight facilitator by reducing the number of intermediaries involved in long distance, multi-country traffic.”
The corridor’s advantages
For international freight transport, rail companies and other partners (shippers, logistics and combined transport operators) request capacity (“ready-to-use” paths called “pre-arranged paths”) via the one stop shop (OSS). The OSS (email@example.com) offers the possibility of having a single contact for booking and ordering paths on international routes.
Freight corridors have also been equipped with a tool to improve freight performance on their lines: this involves coordinating work between infrastructure managers, exchanges with user rail companies, and analysing the performance of traffic through the Train Information System, for example.
It should be noted that the North Sea-Mediterranean rail freight corridor is run by a management committee made up of representatives of infrastructure managers and bodies responsible for distributing capacity in the countries crossed by the corridor.