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 Home / About Us / Communication / News / Project launches : FINESSE 
Project launches : FINESSE «  Back

FINESSE puts freight back on track

This project kicked off on December 8th in the Brussels headquarters of the European Parliament. The launch was attended by some 80 participants representing the ports of Boulogne, Calais, Dover, Dunkirk and Zeebrugge together with delegates from the three regions that are supporting the partnership namely, Kent, Nord-Pas-de-Calais and West Flanders.

Finesse launch in Brussels Detlef Golletz, project manager and Head of Planning and Infrastructure at SEEDA, opened the meeting with a presentation of the project. During the next two years the partnership will study the commercial and technical feasibility of shifting freight from road to rail by re-instating trainferry links across the Channel.This project is not competing against the Channel Tunnel insisted D.Golletz it looks at providing additional capacity for freight in the future, particularly for the transport of hazardous goods.  He then went on to explain some of the issues behind the project: With 100 million passengers and 150 million tons of freight crossing through it every year, the South East of England is the largest transport bottleneck in the world, despite the fact that is very well connected. FINESSE follows up on European and national policies across both sides of the Channnel which actively encourage modal shift for freight from road to rail.  Over the last fifteen years, the imbalance between road and rail freight has dramatically increased. In 2003 only 1.9 million tons of freight travelled by rail through the Chunnel and the roll on-roll off market still accounts for 98% of the overall freight traffic . If one takes into account current trends, road freight in Europe is forecasted to increase by another 50% by 2010 which explains why players today are willing to consider modal shift.

Rail is clearly the answer

Dover is the busiest roll on-roll off port in the world stated Bob Goldfield, Chief Executive of the Port of Dover We handle up to 50 billion of freight every year and handle over 134 000 passengers which is more than Brussels airport for instance. Dover port supports 24 000 people in employment and every extra ton of freight creates a further 4 000 jobs . Bob Goldfield went on to explain how road congestion or road pricing would inevitably reduce the growth of freight which would have negative impact on the Port's activities. We need further capacity to cope with this expected growth but we face real space constraints. So we've had to think very carefully on what we want to invest in and shifting road haulage to a rail-based logistics chain is clearly the answer.

Targeting the right market segments

old train ferry photoFor Joachim Coens, Chairman and Managing Director of the Port of Zeebrugge the challenge of the project is also identifying the market segments it can service. He presented one of the market segments on which the Port of Zeebrugge thrives, namely the car industry which has led the Port to develop links between Northern France, northern Belgium and the Midlands in the UK. He also made reference to the harbour's know-how in intermodality through a barge system called Port Connect that has been running for a number of years.

Encouraging modal shift at regional level

Arnaud Freville, Head of Transport at the Nord-Pas de Calais Region emphasized the key role regional authorities had to play in encouraging modal shift. Although the Nord Pas de Calais rail network is already quite dense, the regional transport masterplan has scheduled to build a new freight link along a West East route between Boulogne and Amiens  to link up with the Lorraine region. This would tie in well with one the project's objectives to examine the market potential for new links between Channel ports and Central and Eastern Europe. Mr Freville also explained that the Nord Pas de Calais region was now in charge of the ports of Boulogne, Calais and Dunkirk after the French Government had decentralised the management of ports to the Regions .

Getting rail operators on board

During the panel discussion that followed the partnership was asked how long it would take to demonstrate the economic viability of the project. To help these new links get off the ground, we may resort to funding from Programme's such as Marco Polo mentionned Detlef Golletz but we are confident that after 3 or 4 years we will be looking at a sustainable solution. The partnership expects the project to act as a catalyser for the rail sector which is why the main operators (Rail Freight Group, SNCF, SNCB) are taking part in the project as observers.

Parliament building in Brussels


To know about more projects and their launches, read about the successful kick-off events of ENCOURAGE, WIHCC, PROGRESS, ERIH II

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