Taking Europe’s air cargo to the rails

Call it what you will – an innovative solution, a creative opportunity, or maybe just wishful thinking – but a unique development is percolating in Europe that could have far reaching impact on the transportation industry there. In a seemingly odd marriage, trains and planes are set to begin a courtship at select European airports. Donald Urquhart has the story.

By far the more ambitious of the two projects is the Euro-Carex. Driven by FedEx, Air France Cargo, La Poste, TNT, UPS and French rail operator SNCF, Euro-Carex initially aims to link up a new express freight terminal at Roissy/CDG with high speed trains running to Lyon, Cologne, Liege, Amsterdam, Lille and London in the first phase from 2012 and in its second phase from 2015 extend the network to Frankfurt, Bordeaux and Marseille. A third phase by 2020 could see links to hubs in Italy and Spain.

At both CDG and Cologne, FedEx has undertaken major investment to expand the Paris hub as well as building a major new facility in Cologne to accommodate the influx of traffic following the announcement by the US-based express carrier that it was shifting its main hub for central and Eastern Europe from Frankfurt. The CDG expansion is slated for completion by end-2009, while the new Cologne hub will be completed by end-first quarter 2010.

Euro-Carex president Yanick Paternotte has previously said that the organisation will initially employ eight high speed trains specially designed for air cargo with a capacity to transport up to 100 tonnes of express shipments per train each night. He puts the investment at about €600 million for trains and €300 million for terminals.