Following the opening of a new freight rail link between Perpignan in southern France and the port of Barcelona in Spain last December (read more here), the Spanish government has announced it is pressing ahead with plans for a 1,300km freight rail link along its Mediterranean coast.
As part of the country’s proposed Mediterranean Corridor project, the rail link will eventually run from Barcelona in the north to Algeciras, on the south coast via Valencia, Murcia and Malaga, linking the southern cities with Central Europe via Perpignan on the same International Union of Railways (UIC) loading gauge.
The move promises to ease cross-border railway traffic and has been welcomed by carmakers operating in the country, including Spanish carmaker Seat and France’s PSA Peugeot-Citroën.
The Spanish minister of transport, José Blanco, said that €25.4 billion will be invested by 2020 at which time a rail link will be operative between Perpignan and Almería (in Andalusia). The final section between Almería and Algeciras, passing through Málaga, will be built later following the entire coast from Figueres to Algeciras and connecting all the most active ports on the Iberian Peninsula and railway logistics installations. It would enable the operation of trains of up to 750 metres in length and separate freight traffic from passenger traffic.
For carmaker Seat it will connect its facilities at Martorell (near Barcelona) to its European neighbours more efficiently and will boost the use of rail transport for vehicle export to the rest of Europe.
Seat factory manager, Juan Ramón Rodríguez, said the connection of Martorell to the UIC gauge would entail “cost savings, with the entire production chain deriving benefit, since differences between the Spanish and European railways gauges hampers cross-border railway traffic and limits improvements in company competitiveness”.
Seat is currently member of a group of companies, institutions and associations in the Spanish Mediterranean arc calling for a European goods railway gauge to be given priority status in the European Union. Seat said the project would allow it to move as much as 30% of its export production using this mode, doubling the current figures and enabling the company to move 75,000 vehicles by rail, or one of every three cars produced.
For PSA Peugeot-Citroën, which has Spanish plants in Vigo and Madrid, the switch to a European standard gauge and the move to 750-metre trains would remove delay and the possibility of damage during transhipment.
“Currently, standard sized trains in Spain are much smaller than those in France,” a spokesperson told Automotive Logistics News. “This means that we have to take apart two French trains to make three Spanish trains, or use shorter trains in France at virtually the same cost as optimised trains.”
PSA said that there are no automobile carrier unloading terminals in Barcelona connected via UIC standard gauge lines at the moment.
“Priority was placed on connecting the line to multimodal terminals. Branch lines for the automobile industry are scheduled to open in 2013,” the spokesperson confirmed.
For now, the only solution is to unload the vehicles at a station near the port and ferry them overland to their destination; something that the new freight development aims to tackle.
Spain showed 19% growth in exports from the automotive sector in January (16.5% of the monthly total). Per heading, there was an increase of 31.3% in the export of components and of 13.8% in the export of finished vehicles.