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Intermodal trains through the Channel Tunnel are operated by the French Railways (SNCF)) and Railfreight Distribution (RfD), the international freight arm of what used to be British Rail.
The railways provide the locomotives that pull the trains through, and on either side of the Tunnel.
Neither SNCF or RfD get involved in ?etail?business as far as the Channel Tunnel intermodal services are concerned. Services are instead provided either through three wholesalers - Combined Transport Ltd (CTL), Allied Continental Intermodal (ACI) or the Belgian - based Unilog organisation.
CTL is affiliated with the UIRR organisation of intermodal operators in Europe - Novatrans, the French UIRR partner is a 46 per cent shareholder, while UK transport companies have a 36 per cent share - while ACI is the UK partner in the Intercontainer Interfrigo organisation. Traffic has grown steadily. CTL, for instance, is now handling 60.000 units a year through the Tunnel.

Recent CTL developments include upgrading the UK/France service from five to six a week and an increase in the Spanish service from three to four a week from the end of September. ACI has introduced a second service to Italy from the recently opened UK Midlands terminal at Daventry.
The wholesalers organise train schedules and make wagon space available. The services themselves are marketed by road hauliers, freight forwarders and similar operators, some of whom have invested heavily in swapbody equipment suitable for Channel Tunnel operations.
Several firms are retailing services provided by the wholesalers. Among them is Haulmark, which started life as the retail intermodal freight arm of British Rail before BR decided to withdraw from direct selling to customers. It was initially sold to Hogg Robinson and then to private French intermodal and road operator LA Fleche. As well as services to France and Italy, the company markets a rail and sea link to Greece via Brindisi in southern Italy, initially started because of problems in crossing Yugoslavia during the civil war. Haulmark is investing in 13.6 m swaps, as the market is leaning towards this type of unit - seemingly because customers now have enough confidence in the mode to use soft-sides as opposed to steel units.
There is no obligation of the freight industry to use the wholesalers. Any company can market a Channel Tunnel train service, provided it has the ability and deep enough pockets to market an entire train. Examples of organisations that take this approach are Transfesa and, until recently, Bell Lines, which operated a UK-Italy service as Bell Express.
Since the collapse of Bell Lines, British logistics firm Mc Gregor Cory has stepped into the gap and is marketing a three days a week Italy service as Cory Express.

Source: International Freighting Weekly

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