Stopped since summer 2019, the early bird train, which transports fruit and vegetables between Perpignan and Rungis, resumes service from this Friday, in the presence of Prime Minister Jean Castex. A return that some consider too timid and uncertain.
It’s his big comeback. This Friday, October 22, 2021, the Perpignan-Rungis link is back on track.
This rail axis, which is more commonly called “the early bird train”, allows the transport of fruit and vegetables in refrigerated wagons between Perpignan and the Rungis market. He had been arrested in the summer of 2019. In question? The lack of customers and the dilapidated condition of the wagons.
Ecological and social argument
However, for nearly forty years, the primeur train transported fresh produce from the South of France, Spain and Morocco. Its 25 refrigerated wagons passed six days a week with four daily trains to Rungis.
But over time, the early harvest train declines, its damaged and dilapidated wagons are not replaced … Gradually neglected, it transits less and less, before a total shutdown in 2019.
As soon as it was abolished, the railway workers mobilized to restart the link. The government must find a solution, especially as one of its objectives is to “straighten rail freight“For reasons, among others, ecological. Indeed, the early harvest train avoids the accumulation of heavy goods on the roads and therefore greater pollution. They were 25,000 trucks per year to ensure the connection in its place.
In mid-December 2020, the government is therefore launching a call for expressions of general interest for the resumption of the train, adding that “the health crisis has underlined the absolute necessity of having fast, efficient and sustainable food supply circuitss. “.
In September 2021, the State selected Rail Logistics Europe, SNCF’s rail freight subsidiary, with a project including the creation of a rail motorway. The primeurs train is ready for a new start.
A timid recovery
The revival is announced, but with less ambition. Only half of the cars have been renovated. The Perpignan-Rungis will be made up of twelve wagons (instead of thirty) and will run from November to July, during the early season, five times a week. This represents approximately 15 trucks removed from the road per day.
THE FIGHT PAY: resumption of the PERPIGNAN-RUNGIS primeurs train https://t.co/8ejdOzBqs7
– Class Syndical Front (@FrontSClasse) October 21, 2021
And so far, only one carrier operates, Primeve. The National Federation of Road Transporters Occitanie regrets that the other companies interested in loading their goods have not been consulted. She now hopes that the number of cars put back on track will increase in the years to come.
What future for the Train des primeurs?
However, Fret SNCF assures that it is not possible to run a convoy of more than twelve wagons, adding that this version of the early bird train will only be able to run until 2024. What will happen afterwards?
Ultimately, it is expected that the trains will be designed to transport containers. However, this requires the development of a specific terminal for the Rungis international market. An investment that the State would be ready to make.
The future of the Perpignan-Rungis primeurs train is still uncertain, the railway unions are not ready to demobilize. For Philippe Martinez, secretary general of the CGT present in Perpignan to celebrate the relaunch, “freight has a future, it is the future for the planet too (…) it is the demonstration that there is an opening line today but the objective is that there have a thousand in France so it’s a battle that will continue. “.