FRANCE: Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau announced on December 4 the launch of the first local rail operator to be formed as part of the national rail freight revitalisation strategy. NaviRail Atlantique will take over responsibility for the operation of the port rail network at La Rochelle, including the assembling and breaking down of trains.

The establishment of local operators, known as opérateurs ferroviaires de proximité, has been under discussion for some time, with the intention that smaller companies would be more flexible and adaptable in serving both port zones and regional territories.

When the government’s €7bn freight investment programme was announced on September 16 Bussereau said the first OFPs would be established before the end of this year. The environmental transport programme would particularly target port rail operations, he explained, as this would also help to stimulate maritime traffic.

NaviRail Atlantique is being established as a separate company, with its share ownership split between Grand Port Maritime de La Rochelle and Fret SNCF.