THE PROSPECT of high speed freight trains linking France and neighbouring countries took a step forward on December 8 with publication of a feasibility study by Cargo Rail Express.

Carex brings together representatives from Air France, Aeroports de Paris, La Poste, the French government and local authorities with FedEx, TNT and other organisations interested in switching short haul mail and courier traffic from air to rail.

The study recommends the construction at a cost of €300m of two rail-air freight terminals at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport, one linked to TGV Nord at Gousainville and one on a branch from TGV Interconnexion at Tremblay-en-France.

These would be served by a network of TGV Cargo services carrying up to 700 000 tonnes a year of mail and high-value goods in airline containers to destinations up to 800 km from Paris. According to the Ministry of Transport, these could include Brussels, Köln, Amsterdam, Lyon and London. A fleet of 20 trainsets is priced at €31m each.

On November 20 SNCF announced an alliance with La Poste to set up a joint subsidiary by the end of 2008 which would aim to triple the 50 000 tonnes a year currently handled by postal TGVs. A strengthened fleet of 10 sets would initially link Tremblay with Lille, Dijon, Lyon, Rennes, Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Marseille, and La Poste has already requested paths from RFF.

SNCF President Anne-Marie Idrac said 'the climate is favourable to rail freight generally and to high speed freight in particular' because of rising oil prices and congested infrastructure. At the moment it is not clear how the SNCF-La Poste proposals would mesh with the Carex project, but it would clearly make sense to combine the two.