Lorry Rail operates daily services carrying unaccompanied semi-trailers between Luxembourg and the French city of Perpignan, situated near the Spanish border.

“In the first two months of 2011, turnover was more than for 2009 as a whole (€7 million) and is on course to exceed €30 million this year – compared with €12-14 million in 2010,” says SNCF Geodis’s Financial Director, Olivier Storch.

He declined to disclose the level of the operator’s losses, but claimed they had reduced year on year.

“The Luxembourg-Perpignan rail motorway service is now operating as a true shuttle service with four daily departures in each direction. We are beginning to reach critical mass in terms of volumes, thus providing scope for the company to cover its fixed costs and generate operating income,” says Storch.

Each Lorry Rail train convoy is made up of 20 flatbed rail wagons, carrying up to 40 semi-trailers.

Storch says Lorry Rail is seeking approval from French rail network manager Reseau Férré de France, to operate longer trains from early next year, adding three wagons per train.

Earlier this year, the company took delivery of 45 new wagons, taking its total fleet to 105.

He says Lorry Rail, along with all other rail freight operators in France, is having to contend with sporadic disruption to services due to the non-availability and/or cancellation of train slots, these being largely a result of heavy track maintenance.

“There’s never been as much maintenance on the French rail network and there are periods when it can be very difficult to obtain slots. One can also lose slots that have been booked – and at very short notice.

“However, when we have two to three weeks of disruption-free activity, we are recording excellent load factors, which augurs well for the future development of the service,” adds Storch.

Earlier this year, Lorry Rail extended the Perpignan-Luxembourg service to southern Sweden, via Krefeld, in Germany, and soon Hanover will be added to the itinerary, with the state-owned SNCF Geodis saying that the 2,000km journey will be covered in 48 hours, compared with a minimum of three days by truck.