Rail refrigerated transport: two case studies in Europe

While the Rungis fruits and vegetable train in France is experiencing serious difficulties, the new CoolRail rail line linking Spain to the Netherlands offers promising prospects.
  • The days of the last freight line of fruits and vegetables in France may be numbered. Since 1986, the "Rungis fruit and vegetable train", a train of 24 refrigerated wagons - each containing between 28 and 36 pallets - daily connects Perpignan, located in the south of France not far from the Spanish border, to the food market of Rungis, in the south of Paris. About 140,000 tonnes of fruit and vegetables are currently delivered each year to the Rungis market, considered by Semmaris, its operator, as the largest fresh produce market in the world.[1]

    But the contract between the two companies operating the line, Rey and Roca and Fret SNCF, a subsidiary of the SNCF, ends on June 30, 2019, with no extension agreement to date.

    In 2010, a complete renovation of the railway terminal of the Rungis market and the transition to 2 trains of 24 wagons each had been achieved for a cost of about 20 million euros. But, by November 2016, the return to a single train had been decided and in spring 2017, the closure of the line had already been considered for economic reasons.[2]

    The obsolescence of the wagons is the main cause of the difficulties encountered. Renting new ones would be too expensive for both operators. A new contract has been evoked without reaching an agreement. The abandonment of this freight line would have a significant ecological impact since it would require the use of around 50 trucks per day.

    The CEO of Semmaris, Stéphane Layani, decided to take the first step. He announced investing 300,000 euros for operators, Roca and Rey. An amount that would allow them according to him to rent trains of the SNCF "temporarily" for one or two years, the time to find for example a combined transport solution using containers of trucks placed on trains.[1]

  • The new CoolRail rail link has been operational since May 6, 2019. This train is dedicated to the temperature-controlled transport of fresh produce between Valencia (Spain) and Rotterdam (the Netherlands). Thanks to this new line, 42 refrigerated containers kept at 4° C will be transported three times a week, 48 weeks a year.

    At the origin of this initiative, Euro Pool Group estimates that CoolRail will reduce emissions by 15,000 tons of CO2 per year, or 70% to 90% by saving the equivalent of 22 million kilometers of road transport.[3]

    The group has already announced its intention to deploy the service to Germany, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom.

[1] https://www.freshplaza.fr/article/9103434/le-train-des-primeurs-du-min-rungis-en-danger-la-semmaris-investit-300-000-euros/

[2] https://94.citoyens.com/2019/train-de-fret-rungis-perpignan-19-millions-deuros-de-perdu,14-05-2019.html

[3] https://www.coolraileurope.com/en/