SNCF Geodis has outlined more details of its plan to build a Europe-wide ’rail motorway’ capable of moving 500,000 lorry trailers by train across the continent annually.

This is ten times the yearly volume of trucks currently carried by group subsidiary Lorry Rail’s Luxembourg-Perpignan service – a distance of over 1,000 kilometres.

The French logistics giant is focusing the development of its rail motorway network on what the company says is the widest possible market - the transport of standard, non-accompanied semi-trailers over long distances on routes where HGV road traffic is currently significant and causing congestion.

"The potential exists for the transfer of a considerable number of standard semi-trailers onto long-distance rail motorways operating on freight corridors between northern, southern and western Europe and in the longer term, routes linking the UK, northern France and eastern Europe,” said SNCF Geodis’ rail motorway director, Thierry Le Guilloux.

Last month, the French railways-owned group launched a brand name for the network - ViiA- with the logo ’The Other Way.’

SNCF Geodis says it has taken ’decisive steps’ taken in the growth of the network, notably the extension of the Lorry Rail service to Helsingborg in Sweden and the introduction of 850 metre-long trains on its Luxembourg-Perpignan leg.

The Alpine Rail Motorway between France and Italy was recently opened up to standard semi-trailers through the Mont Cenis Tunnel, which was widened in 2011.

Supporters claim that traffic could increase by 40%, or around 10,000 extra transport units a year now that the tunnel meets the standard European gauge.

There are also plans to extend Lorry Rail’s Luxembourg-Perpignan service to Barcelona and Madrid in the long-term. Initial cross-border tests of rail motorway trains to the Catalonian town of Llers were carried out successfully last month.

SNCF Geodis is also behind a rail motorway project linking the Basque country to northern France.

Earlier this month, Lloyd’s Loading List.com reported that SNCF Geodis was planning the launch of a combined (road-rail) service for semi-trailers across Switzerland from Germany, via the Gotthard rail tunnel which could enter service in 2015.

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