PLANS to launch an international joint venture to improve the competitiveness of rail freight in the Antwerpen - Basel - Milano corridor were unveiled by four European national railways in August.

Fret SNCF, B-Cargo, CFL and SBB Cargo agreed in Paris on August 8 that forming a new company would be the best way to improve the quality and performance of freight services linking the nodes at Antwerpen, Muizen, Bettembourg, Metz and Basel-Muttenz. Sibelit is currently expected to become operational during 2006.

Based in Luxembourg, Sibelit will be responsible for managing cross-border flows and optimising the use of resources belonging to its parent companies. Sibelit will not have its own operating licence, but will co-ordinate the use of existing access rights, locomotives and train crews from SNCB, SNCF and CFL.

SBB Cargo confirmed on August 17 that it was debating whether to become a partner in the venture, although it did not expect Swiss resources to be used north of Basel.

As well as the initial corridors, Sibelit is expected to study the potential for using the Betuwe Route and Iron Rhine corridors to compete with Railion when European rail freight is deregulated further. n