Europe View

‘Rail motorway’ plan: CargoBeamer wagon on show at InnoTrans 2016; the company is currently operating daily services from Cologne to Milan. Keith Fender



There are hopes that cross-channel rail freight may begin to grow again from its current very low base. This follows the closure of the ‘Jungle’ migrant camp in Calais during 2016 and the decision of the French Government, after several years of prevarication, to relocate and house the thousands of former Jungle residents elsewhere in France. Eurotunnel has revealed that rail freight through the tunnel fell by a quarter last year, measured either by tonnage (1,041 million tonnes in 2016 compared to 1,241 million tonnes in 2015) or by train movements (1,797 compared to 2,421), although figures for the last three months of 2016 show growth of about 10% compared to the same period in the previous year (which was the peak of the migrant incursions so a low base).

The migrant crisis has not just affected rail freight to and from the UK but has also disrupted plans by both SNCF Geodis and private operators to offer rail freight services for unaccompanied heavy goods vehicle semi-trailers (from or to the UK/Ireland) from Calais to other parts of Europe.

One of the consequences of the migrant crisis has been the allocation by the French government of €50 million of additional economic development funding to the local government in Calais. In late 2016 the Mayor of Calais announced that €2 million was available to support the long-planned but stalled investment by German intermodal company CargoBeamer in constructing a terminal in Calais – so long as this happens during 2017.

CargoBeamer, which set up a French subsidiary in 2014, has planned with French logistics property developer DCB International to build a road-rail cargo terminal using the CargoBeamer technology in Calais as part of a bigger planned logistics park being built by DCB International. Regular ‘rail motorway’ services would then operate from Calais to Leipzig in eastern Germany and potentially in the future as far as Poland, Russia or China. DCB International formed a joint venture with CargoBeamer to operate the new service, which is aimed at traffic to and from the UK plus northern France and Belgium. The total investment planned by CargoBeamer is more than €15 million, but delays with planning permission and ongoing uncertainty caused by the migrant influx have thwarted progress.

The CargoBeamer system is different from conventional intermodal wagons for semi-trailers in that it transports the semi-trailers on ‘pallets’ which can be pre-loaded (with the semi-trailer) without the train being present – it is simply driven on. Trans-shipment of the loaded ‘pallets’ to the CargoBeamer wagons is then undertaken using innovative automated trans-shipment equipment in purpose-built terminals to slide the ‘pallet’ holding the semi-trailer into the wagon without cranes, although cranes can be used to lift the loaded ‘pallets’ if necessary. CargoBeamer claims that the automated palletisation approach means entire trains (36 semi-trailers) can be loaded or offloaded in 15 minutes, rather than several hours for trains which require either overhead cranes or reach stackers to load more conventional piggyback wagons. Unlike conventional wagons, CargoBeamer claims its system can handle almost all road semi-trailers, most of which cannot be lifted on their own for trans-shipment onto rail wagons; using CargoBeamer pallets means it’s the pallet not the trailer that has to withstand being lifted. The Calais CargoBeamer terminal has been planned to handle 800 road trailers per day.

Geodis/Fret SNCF introduced the VIIA Britanica ‘rail motorway’ service for unaccompanied road trailers between Calais and Perpignan near the Spanish border in March 2016. Introduction of the service, operated six days a week using new third generation road-on-rail Modalohr wagons made by French manufacturer Lohr, had been delayed by migrant incursions at the new €7 million terminal built inside the Port of Calais. After only three months of operation, VIIA Britanica services were suspended in July 2016 due to repeated migrant trespass leading to concerns that people would be killed trying to board the trains. Following the closure of the Jungle camp, the service restarted on 7 February.



The French Government has now largely completed the formal transfer to the French regions of lossmaking Trains d’Equilibre du Territoire (TET) services operated under the Intercités brand. In most cases the transfer is not immediate and will occur over the next few years as new trains are delivered, mostly replacing loco-hauled Corail trains. In total, €3.5 billion of government funding for new trains has been assigned, although thus far only two orders have been placed. The first trains ordered – 34 Coradia Liner bi-mode units built by Alstom, entered trial passenger service in eastern France in January and commenced TET operation on the Paris Est – Troyes – Belfort route on 5 February.

In late December 2016, the new Centre-Val de Loire region agreed to take over responsibility for services from Paris to Orléans/Tours, Bourges/ Montluçon and semi-fast services from Paris to Nevers from 2018. This was in return for contributions from central government of €24.5 million per year in operating subsidy and €480 million for new rolling stock. The Paris – Clermont Ferrand service, which shares the same route to Nevers, is one of six that the government will retain as being of structural national importance; the others are:

■ Paris – Orléans – Limoges – Toulouse;

■ Bordeaux – Toulouse – Marseille;

■ Nantes – Bordeaux;

■ Toulouse – Hendaye; and

■ Nantes – Lyon.

In addition, two overnight train routes (Paris – Briançon and Paris – Rodez/Latour de Carol) are included in the national strategic network, and new rolling stock is being evaluated.

The French Government has now agreed an operating contract for the remaining TET services with SNCF, worth €1.7 billion for the period 2016 to 2020 (with a possible three-year extension). Whilst TET services cost the Government €400 million in 2016, this is forecast to fall to €250 million by 2020 as by then many routes will have been transferred to the regions and be operated using new rolling stock.

Other regional agreements include Nouvelle-Aquitaine region becoming responsible for the (currently little-used) routes from Bordeaux to La Rochelle, Ussel and Limoges, with €6.7 million a year operating subsidies in 2018/19, reducing to €5 million from 2020 onwards for three years. €75 million worth of new rolling stock is planned for these routes. In Northern France, the new Hauts-de-France region will take over services from Paris to Amiens and Boulogne plus services from Paris Nord to Maubeuge/ Cambrai, with €15 million in operating subsidies per year and €400 million for new trains.

The new Occitanie region in south west France has agreed to take over the famously scenic but poorly-served routes from Clermont Ferrand to Béziers and Nîmes. New trains worth €30 million are planned, although subsidies are only agreed until 2022; the Clermont-Ferrand – Béziers route has already been transferred to Occitanie, which is receiving €4.5 million a year to fund the sole TET train pairs on both routes south of Clermont Ferrand. The Occitanie region has recently undertaken a large-scale public consultation on future rail services, one result of which is a promise to look at reopening some closed regional lines.

In April 2016, the Normandie region agreed to take over TET services on the lines from Paris to Caen, Le Havre, Cherbourg, Trouville-Deauville and Granville, plus those between Caen and Tours from 2020 onwards after new trains have been delivered. Intercités services between Paris St Lazare and Caen, Le Havre, Cherbourg and Trouville-Deauville will be operated using new Bombardier-built Omneo Premium part double-deck articulated EMUs from 2019 onwards, replacing electric loco-operated trains of Corail coaches. The €585 million order for 40 units, each 135 metres long with 470 seats, was announced in November 2016. SNCF has already ordered 253 of the regional version of the Omneo train; these are now entering service all over France.

In total, the 18 TET routes now agreed for transfer lost €165 million in 2016, according to SNCF; it is unclear how far these losses will be reduced by the mixture of new trains and improved synergy with existing TER services (also funded by the regions). From 2018 the central government subsidy is effectively capped at just over €50 million, with the regions required to make up the difference or adjust service levels further to reduce costs. The impending introduction of competitive tendering for regional services in France within the next decade may see major cost reductions as seen in Germany (see Baden Württemberg story overleaf) or could result in little real competition – how this will develop may not become any clearer until after the French Presidential election in May 2017.

Ordered for Paris to Normandy services: the Regio2N version of the Bombardier Omneo is now in service all over France operating TER services. Unit No 411Cm is seen at Bordeaux St Jean on 18 November 2016. The enormous scaffolding is in place to enable SNCF completely to restore the station’s overall roof – claimed at 300 metres by 60 metres to be the largest in Europe – for the first time in a century, in time for the opening of the new TGV Océane high-speed services in July. Keith Fender


In 2011 the authorities in the Norman city of Caen decided to replace the Bombardier-built Transport sur Voie Réservée (TVR) guided trolleybus system, only in use since 2002, with a conventional light rail system. The Tramway 2019 project will create a 16.8km three-line network, converting the TVR line to light rail operation and adding extensions at a cost of around €250 million.

Caen has now ordered 23 Citadis X05 light rail vehicles from Alstom to operate the new tramway. The trams will be delivered from 2018 onwards and the contract, worth €52 million, has options for a further nine vehicles. The removal of the Caen TVR system will leave just one TVR in operation, in Nancy.


SNCF has launched the TGVmax, an unlimited travel pass for passengers aged 16-27. The pass is valid on all TGV and Intercités trains requiring reservations, the only exceptions being crowded trains with high numbers of business travellers. It costs €79 per month for travel in second class, with up to six bookings able to be made at once but only one departure per city per day. The ticket is a 100% digital online pass, not requiring the use of cards or tickets.



Deutsche Bahn CEO Dr Rüdiger Grube has left the company and his contract has been terminated.

He has been CEO of DB for eight years, and will be succeeded on an interim basis by Dr Richard Lutz until a permanent successor is appointed. His contract was due to expire at the end of this year, and it is understood he had been in talks regarding a three-year extension to his contract, but according to German newspaper Handelsblatt the DB supervisory board was only prepared to offer him a two-year deal.


In late December 2016, the Bavarian transport authority BEG announced that DB Regio would be awarded both contracts to operate the Nuremberg S-Bahn system. The contracts are worth around €1.4 billion over their 12-year life, operating 7.3 million train kilometres a year and carrying 16 million passengers annually on five routes, one of which is new.

Originally, in February 2015, National Express had been awarded the contracts through its German subsidiary, but DB challenged this in court. The court required BEG to re-evaluate the contracts, which it did, deciding again to award the contract to National Express in December 2015. More legal action from DB followed, and in October 2016 National Express announced it was withdrawing its offer as the delays had made rolling stock procurement by December 2018 unrealistic. BEG then reviewed the two other bids it had received and decided the DB offer was the better of the two. According to local media reports, the only other bidder to submit a valid offer was the German subsidiary of another British firm, Go-Ahead.

In early January, the contracts with DB Regio were confirmed and DB announced it would buy 27 four-car Coradia Continental EMUs from Alstom to operate services on three of the five routes. The new trains will replace all the remaining loco-operated push-pull sets, still used extensively in Nuremberg although largely withdrawn from S-Bahn systems elsewhere in Germany. The new EMUs will be built by Alstom at Salzgitter and will have 230 seats per train. The existing Bombardier Talent 2 EMUs will be retained for the other two routes.

To be replaced following electrification: Belarus State Railways (BCh) twin diesel loco No 2TE10M 3550 at Daugavpils on 11 May 2012 with an eastbound oil train via the Indra cross-border route. Keith Fender


DB Regio has won the contract to operate regional services on the route from Karlsruhe to Basel in Switzerland. The contracts, let by the Baden Württemberg state government as two lots (under the heading SPNV-Netz 4 Rheintal, or Rail transport network 4 Rhine Valley), cover both fast Regional Express services on the Karlsruhe to Basel via Offenburg/ Freiburg route and slower stopping services on the Offenburg –Freiburg – Basel/Neuenburg route for 12½ years from June 2020.

DB will order three-car versions of Siemens’ new Mireo EMU for the slower stopping trains on the Offenburg – Freiburg – Basel/ Neuenburg route; this is the first order for this new train. Along with a fleet of four-car Desiro HC part double-deck EMUs for Karlsruhe to Basel Regional Express services, it represents the first regional trains Siemens has supplied to DB for over a decade. The Desiro HC is another new design of EMU that is not yet in use, albeit it is already on order for other operators. All the new trains, in common with those for other Baden Württemberg contracts with other operators, will carry the new Baden Württemberg white and yellow livery.

DB currently operates the services concerned using double-deck coaches and Traxx AC Class 146 locos; both locos and coaches are less than 15 years old. The Baden Württemberg transport ministry says the cost of operation to the state government has fallen by 37.5% from €11.69 per km to €7.3 per km, and in total the two contracts represent around four million train kilometres annually. This major cost reduction is partly due to the previous Baden Württemberg government decision (in 2003) to award DB a single contract covering most services in the state, representing around 39 million train kilometres, without tendering individual routes. Only in recent years have individual groups of lines been tendered, normally producing significant operating cost savings, with DB winning some of them alongside other operators such as Abellio and Go-Ahead. Part of the cost saving may come from operating smaller trains – the three-car Mireo EMUs are planned to replace three or four double-deck coaches currently used, offering around half the number of seats available today.

Substantial infrastructure improvements already planned or under construction will create additional capacity during the life of the contracts until 2033. This will enable more and faster regional trains on the route, which is shared with around 280 freight plus over 60 ICE services daily.



Latvian Railways (LDZ) has been planning electrification of more of its network for several years, although little progress has been made. LDZ is now planning to electrify key east-west 1,520mm-gauge freight routes serving Baltic ports in Ventspils and Liepāja using 25kV AC electrification. In the first phase of the electrification programme the route from Rēzekne, on the border with Russia, to Ventspils via Daugavpils, Krustpils and Jelgava will be electrified, as will the line from Jelgava to Liepāja. This work is scheduled for 2019-2023 and budgeted at €608 million, part of which is EU-funded.

The next stage will see the electrification of the cross-border route into Belarus from Daugavpils to Bigosovo (Belarus) via Indra, plus the main line from Krustpils into the suburbs of Riga to the large marshalling yard at Šķirotava. This work should be complete by 2025, enabling electric operation of freight from both the Baltic ports and Riga to Belarus.

Separately, the governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have agreed final details of the Rail Baltica project which will see a new 25kV AC electrified 1,435mm-gauge line from Kaunas in Lithuania to Tallinn in Estonia via Riga open by 2026; the project, costing around €5 billion, will be 85% EU-funded. The first (currently non-electrified) section from the Polish border to Kaunas in Lithuania opened in late 2015.


The third stage of the Latvian national electrification programme will be the conversion and modernisation of the suburban network around Riga, which is currently electrified at 3,000V DC. All this electrification work was undertaken prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, starting in 1966. The conversion programme is planned to take five years from 2025 to 2030.

Tenders for new EMUs for passenger operator Pasažieru Vilciens have occurred in the last few years, but no trains have been built since a 2013 contract with CAF was annulled when Pasažieru Vilciens altered its requirements after agreeing the contract; the ensuing legal dispute is now with the European Commission to adjudicate. New tenders in 2014 resulted in offers from Stadler, Pesa and Korean firm Hyundai, but again no order followed. Pasažieru Vilciens has announced it will now tender for a dual-voltage 3,000V DC/25kV AC EMU fleet, for delivery between 2019 and 2021.



Macedonian national operator MŽ has ordered four 25kV AC electric locos from Chinese manufacturer CRRC, which will build them at its CRRC Zhuzhou subsidiary in southern China. The new locos will replace older ex-Yugoslav Railways locos. CRRC Zhuzhou has previously supplied EMUs and DMUs to MŽ and is in the process of delivering two six-axle 25kV AC electric locos in neighbouring Serbia to national electricity generator Elektroprivreda Srbije. These are for use on its 100km-long private network serving the large TPP Nikola Tesla power station, west of Belgrade. The locos being delivered to Serbia and Macedonia are designed to meet all relevant EU TSI (technical specifications for interoperability) rules.



The Montenegrin Government has received one bid for national rail freight operator Montecargo. The bid, which has been accepted, was made by Polish company OT Logistics, offering €2.5 million for 51% of the shares, which had a nominal value of €8.9 million based on their issue price, although this nominal value appeared to overvalue the company significantly. Revenue in 2015 was €7.1 million (up €1 million compared to 2014) but pre-tax profit was €110,163 (compared to a 2014 pre-tax loss of €1.7 million). As part of the purchase, OT Logistics has committed to invest €2.55 million, principally buying new IT systems and acquiring two multi-system Siemens Vectron electric locomotives. The company has an option to buy the remaining 49% stake from the government as part of the agreement.

Montecargo was formed in 2008 when it was split from national railway administration Željeznica Crne Gore. It has a small fleet of ex-Yugoslav Railways (JŽ) electric and diesel locos. The country’s principal line from the Serbian border to the port of Bar was built by the Yugoslav government between 1959 and 1976 and is electrified at 25kV AC, as is the branch from Podgorica to Nikšić. A freight-only non-electrified line to neighbouring Albania was built from Podgorica to Shkodër in 1985, although it remained out of use during the Yugoslav civil wars before reopening in 2003.

Montecargo’s principal traffic is to and from the Adriatic port of Bar; OT Logistics has also bought a 30% stake in the port in a parallel privatisation process, and is planning to develop traffic by rail and sea through the port. Montenegro’s rail network is not directly connected to the EU as all trains must transit Serbia, where connections to four EU countries exist. Substantial infrastructure work has been underway in Serbia over recent years (using both EU and Russian finance) to improve linespeeds and capacity, as both had deteriorated badly during the 1990s.



Dutch national operator NS introduced new domestic services via the southern part of the HSL Zuid high-speed line on 23 January. The services, operating every half-hour for 17 hours a day between Den Haag and Breda, use the conventional line to Rotterdam and HSL Zuid from there. Services are operated using Bombardier Traxx MS Class 186 electric locos in top-and-tail mode, with fixed formations of nine coaches in between. Services are limited to 160km/h operation. Combined with the existing two Amsterdam – Rotterdam – Breda train pairs each hour and two Amsterdam – Rotterdam train pairs each hour, the new services mean there are now four domestic services per hour on each main section of the HSL Zuid high-speed line. Only services between Schiphol Airport and Rotterdam require a supplement. Thalys services use the entire HSL Zuid route from north of Antwerp to Schiphol, as will Eurostar’s London to Amsterdam workings when they launch in December.

Faster journeys: NS Traxx MS loco No 186025 leaving Den Haag HS on 24 January 2017 with one of the new half-hourly services from Den Haag Centraal to Breda. John Morris

Journey times for the new services from Den Haag to Breda are nine minutes faster than the services they have replaced, which used the original line south of Rotterdam via Dordrecht. The services are due to be extended south east from Breda to Eindhoven later in 2017, reducing end-to-end journey times to Den Haag by 11 minutes. NS has trained 149 drivers and 191 conductors for the new route. The loco-operated trains will be replaced from 2021 onwards by new 200km/h Intercity New Generation EMUs being built by Alstom.

NS has now taken delivery of all 45 Class 186 locos it has bought from Bombardier; these were ordered without a tender as an urgent requirement following the Fyra debacle and were delivered between August 2014 and late November 2016. In addition, it has 12 Class 186s on lease from Alpha Trains and eight from Macquarie Rail (at least one of which is now sub-leased to Belgian operator SNCB for Benelux services between Amsterdam and Brussels). The Alpha Trains locos are the original ‘interim’ Fyra-liveried fleet, hired prior to the delivery of the ill-fated V250 EMUs and retained for much longer than planned! All the former red Fyra-liveried locos are now in NS yellow and blue livery.

Introduction of the new Den Haag – Breda service has replaced the previous Den Haag – Venlo service via the conventional network. This has been controversial, as the new service does not serve Dordrecht and thus reduces the number of Intercity services between Breda and Dordrecht to just one an hour rather than three previously. Our thanks to reader John Morris for some of the information in this item.

Sold: two of the small Montecargo diesel fleet are seen at Podgorica depot on 21 April 2013. Both are EMD designs: on the right is G16 Co-Co No 661326, delivered to JŽ by General Motors and built in the USA in 1970; on the left is G22U A1A-A1A No 644024, built under license by Macosa in Spain in 1973 and originally used in Slovenia but sold secondhand to Montecargo in 2008. Keith Fender