THE DIRECTORS and shareholders of Crossrail and Dillen & Le Jeune Cargo announced their intention to merge the two companies to create a pan-European independent traction provider on October 3.

The merged company will be headquartered in Switzerland and operate under the Crossrail name. It will be jointly owned by Babcock & Brown, which will manage financial and strategic development, and the founders of DLC who will be responsible for rail operations.

DLC was established in 2000 by Jeroen Le Jeune and Ronny Dillen with Hupac as a shareholder, becoming the first private operator with a Belgian rail licence in April 2002 and then the first foreign private operator in the Netherlands in 2003 (RG 6.03 p350). The company also operates in Germany.

Crossrail has Swiss and Italian train operating licences and provides traction for trans-Alpine freight between Italy, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. It was created in January 2004 as a brand for the unaccompanied intermodal services operated by the Logistics & Freight Traffic business of Regionalverkehr Mittelland, but was spun off as Crossrail AG in December 2005 when RM's merger with BLS Lötschbergbahn excluded the freight operations. Crossrail AG was originally intended to trade independently, but offers to buy the business prompted RM to sell the business to Babcock & Brown in 2006 (RG 2.06 p60).

After the merger Crossrail will have a fleet of 37 mainline locomotives, growing to over 70 by 2009. In a statement the two companies said the merger will enable them to accelerate a joint strategy of using interoperable locomotives to provide integrated international services centred on the north-south TEN 24 corridor. The integrated company will also 'develop an Eastern European capability.'

Crossrail Chief Executive Paolo Alemanni said 'Crossrail and DLC have been operating trains jointly for just 10 months but we share a common vision when discussing the future of Europe's rail freight industry. We expect the merger to create a number of synergies, augmenting those that we have already realised through cooperation, creating a competitive and focused business that will fulfil the requirements requested by existing and potential clients.'

Jeroen Le Jeune, CEO of DLC added 'For the first time ever, our current and future customers can go to a single private operator for services in Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. This is a milestone for the European rail industry where finally we are reaching a service without borders.'