Discussions are underway between the Spanish and French governments to subsidize the cross-border passage of goods between the two countries at Perthus.
The climate challenge is global: to encourage people to prefer rail to road. In this case, the aim is to encourage international transport companies to use the railways to reach Europe from the Iberian Peninsula, itself a hub for freight to and from Africa.
The Perthus pass, in the Pyrénées-Orientales region of France, is the linchpin of this European policy, with its potentially colossal economic spin-offs. With this in mind, both Spain and France are keen to subsidize the rail charges levied on goods transport through the Perthus tunnel.
A gigantic and costly infrastructure (8.3 kilometers of the Pyrenees have been pierced at a cost of over a billion euros, to link Le Perthus to Figueres) yet under-used, even if freight is not lacking, "it's exploding", indicated Petros Papaghiannakis, director of the operator LFP, to L'Indépendant on May 31.
300 to 700 euros "toll" per convoy
The fee for a freight convoy is between 300 and 700 euros (rates indicated by LFP Perthus management in May 2023). Part of this amount would therefore be borne by the two countries.
This small, 8.3-kilometer section is crucial to Spain's much larger project for a Mediterranean rail corridor: 1,300 kilometers from Andalusia to Catalonia and Perthus, thanks to rail gauges that are finally similar. Until now, this difference has deprived Spain of fluid links with the rest of Europe.
As a reminder, Spain has also obtained from the European Commission the right to keep its freeways free of charge if it undertakes to drastically reduce CO2 emissions from road transport, with measures to encourage rail freight. A new era is undoubtedly dawning...
Back in May, LFP's managing director confided his optimism to L'Indépendant: "Traffic will intensify with the extension of the international rail gauge beyond Barcelona in 2024-2025. Today, we capture 5 to 10% of Spanish demand, and the day we capture the other 90% via Valencia, Alicante, Algeciras... we'll be moving into another dimension".
The subsidies currently being negotiated between the French and Spanish ministries should speed things up. Excellent news for the concessionaire, but until then, radio silence at Le Perthus.
"Conversations are underway between the ministries of the two countries, for the time being we cannot make any statement on this subject," soberly states LFP management when approached on Monday.