Swiss Railways has set up SBB Cargo France to develop new contracts

Faced with capacity problems on one of Europe’s main rail freight routes, Swiss Railways has set up its subsidiary SBB Cargo France.

SBB Cargo FranceThis new entity will be useful both for finding alternative routes via France and for developing new freight contracts between the two countries.

Several transport corridors, in particular the Rhine-Alps linking Rotterdam and other North Sea ports with Genoa via Cologne, Karlsruhe and Basel, are facing major capacity problems, which will not be solved before 2040. Aware of the impact that capacity problems can have on the smooth running of rail freight traffic, the Swiss state-owned operator has set up a subsidiary in France.

A non-electrified rail section creates problems

Called SBB Cargo France, the new entity is headquartered in Huningue, just a few kilometres from the Swiss border. Its role is not only to develop rail freight in Hexagon, but also to find alternative routes through France for its trains. The route through Lauterbourg has the major drawback that it is not electrified, requiring diesel traction. Under these circumstances, another route could be used more, namely via Thionville for trains between Basel and Koblenz.

For now, the Swiss operator’s operations in France are very limited. Transit traffic on the Basel – Strasbourg – Luxembourg – Antwerp corridor has been organised by Sibelit, a joint venture between the French state-owned operator SNCF, Luxembourg’s Chemins de Fer Luxembourgeois (CFL) and Belgian freight operator Lineas.

Leased from a German freight operator, a diesel locomotive is currently pulling trains from Basel to Huningue, a river port on the Rhine opposite Basel.

The creation of SBB Cargo France comes at a time when SNCF Réseau has launched work to renovate the 2.7 km stretch of line between Saint-Louis and the port of Huningue, which will last until mid-July this year.

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