EUROPE: International consultations will start shortly to find a new operator for the trans-Alpine intermodal services on the Lyon – Torino corridor, following the signing of a bilateral accord between France and Italy on October 9.

In a bilateral meeting alongside the European Union council of transport ministers in Luxembourg, French minister Dominique Bussereau and his Italian counterpart Altero Matteoli reached agreement on the future shape of intermodal operations on the corridor.

Since the experimental Modalohr piggyback service began running between Aiton and Orbasano in 2003, more than 100 000 lorries have used the route, which currently sees four trains each way per day. These are operated by a joint venture of Fret SNCG and Trenitalia Cargo.

The two governments have now committed to developing the route for the longer term, with the aim of transferring 100 000 lorries a year from the congested roads through the Mont Cenis corridor. At the French end, the service will be extended from Aiton to a new terminal in the Lyon area. This is to be funded from the €7bn package of rail freight investment announced by Environment minister Jean-Louis Borloo on September 16.

The current agreement forms part of a longer-term strategy agreed by both governments to develop the Lyon – Torino corridor over the next 15 years. This includes the construction of the long-planned Mont Cenis base tunnel, on which exploratory work has been underway for some time.