AusRAIL, Market Sectors

First head rolls at start of European rail revolution

<p>The head of state-controlled French rail operator SNCF’s freight division has been forced to quit.</p> <p>Francis Rol-Tanguy is the first head to roll at the start of Europe’s rail freight revolution.</p> <p>The new French secretary of state for transport, Dominique Bussereau, did not consider Mr Rol-Tanguy &#8211 appointed by his communist predecessor &#8211 the man to face up to rebellious railway unions, who greeted liberalisation with a walkout. </p> <p>Mr Bussereau is a keen advocate of open markets.</p> <p>Liberalisation of European rail freight, affecting cross-border traffic from March 15 and domestic cabotage from March 2008, will cut a swathe through the job numbers of state-owned SNCF. </p> <p>It could be messy.</p> <p>The chop for Mr Rol-Tanguy came hours after he addressed a conference organised by the European Rail Freight Customer Platform.</p> <p>At the Brussels meeting, Mattias Raith, general manager of chemical industry train operator Rail4Chem, compared the state railways to "elderly boxers embracing one another in the ring because they both know they are the end of their career".</p> <p>He warned that "nothing will change until shippers help to tear down the walls".</p> <p>Mr Raith denied that his company is cherry picking the best routes in Germany and elsewhere, a term of abuse the state-owned monoliths often flung at the private sector.</p> <p>Rail4Chem competes head-on with German state railway DB Cargo and Mr Raith said: "We have gone from zero to 2% market share and had a turnover of e24m. </p> <p>"I believe in the power of the market, because the market offers a better solution than monopolies and socialism.</p> <p>"The transport distances in an enlarged European Union are getting longer, and that means we need rail freight. </p> <p>"It would be foolish not to use the network we already have in place."</p> <p>Mr Raith said the lessons of the deregulated European aviation industry could apply to rail freight &#8211 "lower prices, increased traffic volumes and lower costs."</p> <p>"We don’t want politics and we don’t want subsidies. And we don’t want to kill off the traditional railways," he said.</p> <br />