Intransigence holds up freight progress

Sir - You report that Eurotunnel has applied to the French transport ministry for a licence to operate trains in France (RG 11.03 p724), and also that SNCF is reorganising its freight business to be more commercial (RG 12.03 p765). But you make no mention in your reports of any change in the French government’s attitude to newcomers.

As far as I can tell, there is a three-way axis seeking to maintain the status quo in France, namely the government, the management of SNCF and the trade unions - despite your earlier report that competition was coming to the French network. I understand that there have now been more than 70 applications to Réseau Ferré de France by would-be open access operators.

Just how is it that the French can ignore the EU directives on rail freight with such impunity? In Germany there are more than 200 open access operators, and competition there is bringing benefits for customers, as even Railion may acknowledge. Italy and Austria both have several open access operators. France’s refusal to apply the rules is damaging not just domestic freight but any railfreight business that seeks to transit France.

Peter Veenman