Controversial Swiss, Italian rail cargo venture signed

A rail cargo joint venture between the Swiss Federal Railways and Italian State Railways has been signed in Rome, creating the second biggest concern in European freight transport.

This content was published on February 2, 2000 - 10:21

A rail cargo joint venture between the Swiss Federal Railways and Italian State Railways has been signed in Rome, creating the second biggest concern in European freight transport. However, rail workers in Italy have opposed the new co-operation agreement and have called for a strike on February 18.

The two rail companies have formed Cargo SI to improve their services in national and international goods transport, as well as in logistics, and to raise market share.

The board of the Federal Railways says that, with its size, Cargo SI has a good chance of establishing itself in the liberalised European goods market.

The signing ceremony in Rome was originally due to be attended by the Swiss Transport Minister, Moritz Leunberger, and his Italian counterpart, Pierluigi Bersani, but neither attended.

The chairman of the board of the Swiss Federal Railways, Thierry Lalive d'Epinay, said customers were no longer demanding simply the physical transport of goods from one place to another but wanted solutions to cover all their logistic problems.

"We at the Federal Railways can be proud to have made an important step inside the European Union area with this joint venture. Both railway companies are now open to a new, large market and face new fascinating challenges," he said

The president of the Federal Railways, Benedikt Weibel, said there were great opportunities for freight rail transport because European railways had been losing market share for decades.

"European goods transport is being handled today like it was 100 years ago and the result is an absolutely unsatisfactory quality, " he said.

"The fundamental idea behind our joint venture is very simple. We are putting together an international organisation with an international management for an international market," he added.

Rail workers in Italy have said that they fear job cuts with the creation of the new enterprise and that they were not consulted in the preparations for the co-operation accord. They have also been demanded that Cargo SI be controlled by Italy.

However, a spokesman for Italian state railways said the equal structure of Cargo SI, to be based in Milan, was not up for re-negotiation.

The Swiss Rail and Transport Union has said it understands the concerns of Italian rail employees but considers the new venture a step in the right direction.

By Robert Brookes

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