Akiem locomotive.

FRANCE: ‘We are constantly seeing that the French rolling stock maintenance market is far less dynamic and competitive than elsewhere in Europe’, said Akiem CEO Fabien Rochefort when the leasing company confirmed plans to build a €10m locomotive workshop at Ostricourt in Hauts-de-France.

To be located alongside the northern entrance to the Dourges Delta 3 intermodal hub south of Lille, the workshop will be conveniently positioned to service and maintain locomotives operating on freight flows across much of western Europe.

Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2022 for completion in 2023. The workshop will undertake the mid-life overhaul of more than 150 Akiem locomotives over five years, oversee maintenance of locos operating in France, Belgium and Luxembourg, and provide mobile teams to collaborate with external partners. Maintenance expertise will also be made available to operators with their own fleets. The site is expected to employ around 60 people.

Rochefort explained on October 26 that the company aimed to ‘significantly drive down current maintenance costs in France’, bringing them in line with other European markets. ‘Our Akiem Technik subsidiary provides maintenance operations in 17 countries across Europe on a daily basis’, he said, adding that ‘the new facility will consolidate its presence in France and western Europe.

‘Our goal is to boost our financial performance and the quality of the services we offer our customers. The new site will be far more than just a workshop; it will serve as a launchpad for our strategy to develop industrial partnerships as well as innovation, training and upskilling across western Europe.’

Akiem has partnered with the i-Trans transport and logistics research cluster to explore training opportunities in the area. ‘Hauts-de-France is a region where we can find the employees and develop the skills we need’, said Rochefort. ‘We are working with i-Trans and the local authorities to identify how best to strengthen the local industrial and services ecosystem surrounding rolling stock maintenance. Providing initial and continuing training will be central to our concerns.’