SNCF Geodis, the transport and logistics division of French rail provider SNCF Group, is combining part of its transport network with Swiss intermodal rail operator, Hupac. The two companies have begun working on a combined and expanded service on the east-west European route via France and Belgium. This month SNCF Geodis is linking its Anvers-Dourges line to Hupac's European network and will be responsible for operating domestic transport routes in France.
 "This strategic agreement is a decisive step towards achieving our commitment to expanding rail goods transport in Europe," said Pierre Blayau, CEO of SNCF Geodis. "I am delighted with this partnership, which confirms our ambition for combined transport."
The joint network will give customers access to links between the Iberian Peninsula and the Far East, with daily or weekly connections to eastern Germany, Poland and Russia, as well as links to China. In one example cited by SNCF Geodis, the new service will provide daily departures between Warsaw in Poland and Lyon in France, with a journey time of five days.
On Hupac's shuttle network, Antwerp in Belgium and Ludwigshafen in Germany are platforms for intermodal links with Eastern Europe, Poland, Russia and China.
"With SNCF Geodis we are developing the potential of combined transport across the whole continent of Europe, including the connections to and from Barcelona on the new UIC line and the establishment of links between France and Italy via Modane," stated Bernhard Kunz, managing director of Hupac.
A Hupac spokesperson added that freight corridors are needed for the development of rail transport in Europe, with the main issues involving the international harmonisation of infrastructure, including uniform train lengths or profiles, train control and energy systems, and administrative consistency, including customs.
"As customers of the railway infrastructure we would appreciate very much if investments in this direction could be accelerated," the spokesperson told Automotive Logistics News, adding that the company had always campaigned for market liberalisation in the rail traction sector.
Around ten different railway businesses operate 100 Hupac trains on a daily basis, including SNCF, which already provides traction for some of its trains.
SNCF Geodis already runs the daily routes operated by Hupac between Ludwigshafen and Schwarzheide and will begin operating rail haulage activities on the same corridor in the near future.
Cooperation between Hupac and the SNCF group began in 2007 with the launch of a jointly run train running more than 1,000km between Antwerp in Belgium and Perpignan, France, which has now been extended to Barcelona.
SNCF Geodis is the fourth largest transport and logistics operator in Europe, with a network covering 120 countries. The larger part of its revenue (€6.9bn) comes from its Geodis-STVA operations, which provides logistics solutions for the movement of finished vehicles