First unaccompanied trailer cross-Channel service by rail includes connections to German freight group CargoBeamer’s ‘rolling motorway’ from Perpignan – ‘a logical step in developing a future international intermodal network between the Channel and the Mediterranean’.
Eurotunnel and CargoBeamer have signed a partnership for the launch of the first 100% unaccompanied rail freight transport service across the Short Straits between Britain and France, from Calais to Ashford.
Lloyd’s Loading List last week reported that Channel Tunnel operator Getlink was launching the first cross-Channel unaccompanied rail freight service for trailers – ‘Eurotunnel Border Pass’ – to provide an alternative to accompanied freight crossings, but the involvement of Germany’s CargoBeamer was unclear at the time.
The two operators said the extension of the “rolling motorway” from Perpignan to Ashford “is a logical step in developing a future international intermodal network between the Channel and the Mediterranean”, adding: “A second route from Domodossola, in the Alps region, to Calais will also be extended to Ashford after its launch in early October.”
They said both new rail services will prevent 8,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, “responding to the move to decarbonise freight transport and promoting modal shift”. They said the launch of an unaccompanied freight service “makes it possible to partially resolve the shortage of truck drivers in the UK and Europe as well as relieving traffic congestion on motorways”.
First CargoBeamer route to UK
They said this new service builds on the complementary expertise of both companies, noting: “Getlink brings not only the speed, flexibility, and reliability inherent in Eurotunnel Shuttle services, but also its expertise in frictionless border crossings and carriage maintenance at CargoBeamer Terminal in Calais through Europorte. CargoBeamer offers its customers the benefit of its commercial and logistical expertise through its rolling motorways from Perpignan and Domodossola.”
Christian Dufermont, Freight Commercial Director of Eurotunnel, commented: “The signature of this partnership confirms our freight commercial strategy and is concrete proof of our customers’ increased interest in an unaccompanied cross-Channel service that helps decarbonise their logistic chains and improves flexibility.”
Nicolas Albrecht, Chief Business Development Officer of CargoBeamer, noted: “We value the cooperation between Eurotunnel and CargoBeamer as another crucial step in developing new relations around our recently opened terminal in Calais. Connecting Europe and the UK by environmentally friendly rail is highly important to achieve our mission of reducing the carbon footprint of the logistics industry.”
Unveiling the original plan for the cross-Channel link last week, Eurotunnel said the service would be “open to all transport companies”, and will be run by Eurotunnel Le Shuttle Freight and operate 24 hours a day and six days per week. Departures will be from the fixed link group’s two terminals in Calais and Folkestone, with the service’s capacity initially set at 8,300 trailers per year.
Benefiting from Getlink’s “unique customs expertise,” they said the Eurotunnel Border Pass service “will allow transporters to speed up the border crossing by digitising their administrative exchanges with the border authorities, the company noted”.
It added: “Emitting 40 times less CO2 than ferries, the new rail service will also enable customers to decarbonize their logistics chain by choosing rail, the company added, the modal shift contributing to the French government’s objectives of doubling the share of rail in freight transport by 2030 as well as the ambitions to decarbonise freight set out by the UK government in its Green Industrial Revolution Plan.”
Dufermont commented: “By offering a new low-carbon, reliable and ultra-secure service, we are responding to a changing demand, and we confirm our determination to be the preferred means of passage for the most demanding logistics chains.”
Responding to questions from Lloyd’s Loading List about whether the partnership with CargoBeamer was the main driver behind launching the unaccompanied rail freight cross-Channel service, Getlink said: “We have several customers interested in the unaccompanied market at the moment, local, regional and long-haul. It is clearly a market with some potential.”
The company confirmed this was its first such unaccompanied rail freight cross-Channel service, noting: “Until now we have only provided accompanied road freight or pure rail freight services, so this is a new business that fits between the two and supports the growth in unaccompanied trailer freight for our customers. The service responds to an increase in demand for unaccompanied trailer freight across the short straits and provides an additional option for our customers.”
On whether unaccompanied trailers to and from southern Europe is expected to be a bigger contributor of cargo then local trailers from the Calais/Ashford areas just seeking a short-straits crossing, Getlink said: “Locally it is a driver saving and longer distance, it has significant de-carbonising and road congestion reducing benefits too.”
Explaining some of the operational elements, Getlink said: “In the UK, we will take trailers to Ashford as we have limited space on the arrivals side of our Folkestone terminal.
Unlike for the group’s accompanied freight shuttle services, where freight vehicles are driven from the shuttle by the vehicles’ drivers, unaccompanied trailers will be driven to and from a depot. “They will be dropped off at our terminal by a third party and we will then manage the border formalities via the Eurotunnel Border Pass and provide a driver and tractor unit to load and unload them to the shuttle and then to drive them to the trailer exchange point on arrival at the destination terminal.”