FRENCH National Railways (SNCF) subsidiary VIIA, which operates intermodal services, has won a contract to operate the new rail terminal at Rungis, the largest wholesale food market in France.

The operating concession was awarded by Semmaris, the company which operates the market in the southern suburbs of Paris. The new €36m terminal is due to open in 2026.

Rungis has been served for many years by trains from Perpignan, 1000km from Paris and close to the Spanish border, carrying mostly fruit and vegetables in conventional refrigerated wagons capable of operating at speeds up to 160km/h.

The service of two trains a day arriving in the early morning was cut back to one train a day, running from November to July. In 2020 Fret SNCF stopped operating the service on the grounds that it could not afford to refurbish the refrigerated wagons.

The Perpignan - Rungis service was relaunched in 2021, operating under a contract awarded by French government. The intention in the medium term has been to find a new economic model for the service, with freight moving in containers and/or lorry trailers.

The new terminal at Rungis will be able to handle up to six trains a day, potentially taking 120,000 lorries a year off the roads. Freight trains will resume in 2026, with new routes under consideration including Barcelona - Rungis - Antwerp and Avignon - Rungis - Dunkirk.

In principle, VIIA will not be able to bid for the operating contracts. The European Commission has banned SNCF subsidiaries from participating in tenders to operate freight services for 10 years, following its investigation into illegal state aid paid to Fret SNCF.