As the rail strike in France affecting both passenger and freight movements on the state-owned SNCF network enters its third week, carmakers and logistics providers are having to rely on road for movements of finished vehicles and parts, meaning added cost at a time when the industry is looking for savings, not to mention coping with a severe disruption in air travel.
CGT and Sud-Rail transport unions stopped work on April 6th and are demanding 2,000 extra jobs be created as well as calling for a stop to a restructuring of the SNCF's heavily loss-making freight operation SNCF Fret. It is the third strike to hit French rail this year.
As a consequence, automotive freight in the south is at a standstill while movements in the north of the country are very limited, adding to logistics problems that have hit Europe over the last week as a consequence of the Eyjafjaliajokull volcano (see this week’s lead story).
“Nothing is moving in the south and in the north things are not moving very well. It means that trains into and out of Spain are absolutely zero,” said Alain Leray, deputy managing director at STVA, the vehicle transport subsidiary of SNCF. “We are trying to work with the carmakers but it isn’t easy because it means cost and right now added cost is not very popular,” he told Automotive Logistics News.
Those carmakers were putting a brave face on the situation. Renault said that the strike had had “a limited impact” on its movement of vehicles. “A couple of trains have been cancelled and we had to replace them by trucks,” said spokesman David Valérian. “So far, there has been no impact on our production.”
Similarly BMW admitted no serious impact stating that it had switched all transport from rail to road at the beginning of last week, though, as with Renault, the company would not disclose the logistics partners it was working with. Separately, the OEMs production in southern Germany had been severely impacted by the flight disruptions.
GM Europe also reacted to the situation by shifting from rail to truck. “We have ordered truck transportation volume in advance so that we can ensure that our European logistics system works ongoing as needed,” said spokesman Andreas Krömer.
The consequences for Spanish movements caused by the standstill in the south of France are particularly pertinent to GM Europe which produces the Corsa, Meriva and Combo models at its plant in Zaragoza for distribution to a number of European markets. It also moves parts from Zaragoza to its German plant at Eisenach.
While logistics providers remained modestly mute on just what they were doing to support their customers STVA’s Leray didn’t see a quick end to the dispute.
“There is no resolution in sight. It’s not only financial, it’s political. It’s not just salaries, there is a strong political component in this whole thing,” said Leray.