The situation of rail freight, which has been fragile for many years, was particularly affected by the strike movements of December 2019 and January 2020, then by the drop in activity linked to Covid-19.
As part of today's citizens' convention and environmental defence council, the Government is announcing a series of emergency measures to help this mode of transport overcome the crisis and strengthen its competitiveness. These initial measures are intended to be articulated with the future recovery plan, which will include a section relating to rail freight.
Rail is one of the most environmentally friendly modes of freight transport. It ensures our safety by transporting vital industrial convoys of hazardous materials, but also by avoiding road traffic in general, thus avoiding road accidents and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It also ensures our comfort by reducing road congestion and noise.
Nevertheless, while the volumes of goods transported by rail remain stable overall, the market share of rail freight in France has been steadily eroded in favour of road freight transport. This share is now only 9% (five times less than in 1974), i.e. about half the European average.
The Government intends to respond to the appeals of rail freight companies operating in France, which were heavily affected financially by the strike at the end of 2019 and then the health crisis, even though they have made a major contribution to securing the country's essential supplies in recent months.
In order to revive the sector and help its players to get through the crisis, the Government is today announcing several strong measures:
- Cancellation of the tolls to be paid by rail freight undertakings for the period from July to December 2020;
- Halving of freight toll rates from 2021 onwards;
- The launch of a call for projects for the creation of new "rail freight motorways" with the introduction of a system of start-up aid of up to €35 million per year.
Click here to read the full press release and read the full details published by the French Ministry on their website (in French).