The first Trans-European Rail Freight Freeway train, the Bel-Italia, left Muizen yard in Belgium at 01.51 on January 12 and was due in Lyon at 13.14, having covered 800 km at an average of just over 70 km/h including stops at Arlon, Luxembourg and Thionville for crew or locomotive changes. Some wagons were then attached to a train due in Milano at 06.30 on January 13. While the overall speed is barely 40 km/h, a saving of 24h between Antwerpen port and Milano is claimed. Direct service to Milano avoiding Lyon is anticipated in July, although the TERFF actually passes through Genova on its way to Gioia Tauro, near Reggio Calabria.

The TERFF is a joint venture between four state railways. As forecast in RG 12.97 p829, the One-Stop-Shop ( in Luxembourg gives timings for 17 paths covering various sections of the 2388 km route. But the OSS does not provide traction and crews, and if these are not home-grown, safety approvals have to be obtained from each infrastructure owner. As yet, neither FS nor SNCF has embraced open access.

Though no trains are running, DB Cargo opened an OSS on January 5 for the North-South TERFF network linking Hamburg, Bremen and Rotterdam with Gioia Tauro, Brindisi and Wien. At The Economist’s TERFF conference in Brussels on January 16, Dr Wolfgang Friedrich of DB Cargo explained that FS insisted on the southern ports being included in the hope of capturing more of the Far East trade using the Suez Canal.

EU Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock told the conference that opening of the TERFFs was good news, but ’it would be even better news if Italy had been willing to allow open access on their sections’. Between Muizen and Lyon, open access is available - in theory - to combined transport and state railway groupings as required by EU directive 91/440.

Kinnock said the Commission could see ’no convincing reason why there should not be access for all operators of international freight services. Although the desire to use those rights might initially be small, it could introduce a new era in international rail freight.’ o