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Transportation of fruit and vegetables by rail: from myth to reality

Over the past 15 years, Europe has been working on developing alternatives to road freight, both in light of the expected growth in flows and also with the aim of exploring greener modes of transport

The number of trials concerning the transportation of fruit and vegetables by rail are increasing. (Stobart Group)
The number of trials concerning the transportation of fruit and vegetables by rail are increasing. (Stobart Group)

Since 1996, the European Union has been developing a Community-wide transport network, defining the major transport axes that connect the different hubs in order to facilitate trade between Member States. This initiative, the trans-European transport network (TEN-T), forms part of the larger trans-European networks programme (TEN) which concerns energy and telecommunications as well as the movement of goods and people.

This programme, revised several times since its launch to account for EU enlargement and the priorities of the moment, aims to mobilise the heavy investment necessary to develop efficient and compatible infrastructures. As regards transport, thirty priority projects have been identified and planned for implementation up to 2020. Amongst them feature road axes (e.g. Patras-Budapest), rail axes (e.g. the high-speed rail axis of south-west Europe), maritime axes (e.g. the Eastern Mediterranean Motorway of the Sea) and inland waterway axes (e.g. Seine-Scheldt

During the European Commission’s revision of the EU Transport White Paper in 2006, the Green Corridor concept was introduced to the TEN-T initiative, along with the concept of Co-modality. It entails developing links between different modes of transport so as to improve the environmental performance of freight and it is by way of Green Corridors that the European Commission wants to encourage economic actors to adopt co-modality and technology in order to assist their sustainable development and efficient energy consumption as traffic volumes grow.

The Green Corridors concept is therefore a concept of integrated transport where the sea, railways and inland waterways combine with the roads in order to transport goods in as clean a manner as possible.

From northern Morocco to Russia

Although supporting measures such as the “Eurovignette” road tax, Europe is also calling for opportunities to be offered in parallel to those shippers who want to bring their shipments more into line with its vision. Private as well as public players would therefore have something to gain from the development of alternatives to road freight, as shown by the FERRMED association which is campaigning for a rail network that will, in time, connect northern Morocco with Russia. In the first instance, they hope to quickly complete the Mediterranean corridor axis, stretching between Algeciras and Montpellier. To the north, a big step has already been made with the Figueres to Perpignan section of the line entering service in January 2011. Furthermore, by the end of September 2011, the drilling of the last tunnel in Barcelona had been completed.


Will such a project change the way fruit and vegetables are transported? Freight forwarder Novatran has been shipping such produce via its Roussillon Express direct rail service between Perpignan and Rungis since its launch in December 2010 and views the experience as positive. “Fruit and vegetables account for 30% of the train’s capacity” reports Novatran’s Sales and Marketing Director, Jean-Philippe Delmont*. “Rail has shown itself to be competitive over long distances, and the technology necessary for the effective shipment of fruit and vegetables now exists. I believe that the opening up to Spain will be decisive in the development of this market” he adds.

*Jean-Philippe Delmont left Novatrans in December 2011.

Lundi 16 Avril 2012

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