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Night mail from Paris

High speed mail trains could soon be operating between London and Paris carrying letters and express parcels overnight.

A trial run, from Lyon Saint-Exupéry and Paris Charles-de-Gaulle airports, went well and the train arrived at London St. Pancras International safely.

The train, which left Lyon Saint-Exupéry at 16.42 on 20th March and arrived in London in the early hours of the next day, was organised by members of the EuroCarex consortium, which includes SNCF, the French post office, La Poste, and airport operators in Liège, Amsterdam, Lyon and Paris.

Eurotunnel subsidiary GB Railfreight and High Speed 1 Ltd co-ordinated the English element of the run.

Speaking to RailStaff’s Jonathan Webb, John Smith, managing director of Eurotunnel’s GB Railfreight cargo unit, said, ‘There’s huge potential. We operate trains similar to this in the UK, but at lower speeds.

‘Clearly there is a network of these services in France and amalgamating the two through the Channel Tunnel and High Speed One makes sense.’

The recent ban on night time flying from Frankfurt, Europe’s third busiest airport, has hit the mail business hard. Air cargo shippers now see rail as a fast and economic alternative. A German judge indicated earlier this month that the ban is likely to be made permanent.

Says Nicola Shaw, chief executive of HS1, ‘What today demonstrates is that we can get all the infrastructure managers across Europe working together to make this service work.’

Currently a location for a transport hub near London is being sought. The area around Barking is being looked at as a possible site because of its convenient links to HS1. Services could commence in 2017.

Talks are already underway with Alstom and Siemens regarding the possible supply of up to 25 train sets.

Carriages will have a floor with ball bearing plates and rollers, allowing an unloading time of just 30 minutes.

The London run used TGV set 951, one of three dedicated TGV sets used by La Poste to carry mail between Paris, Mâcon and Cavaillon.

These can carry 120 metric tonnes of parcels. The conversion of older passenger TGV sets to parcel units, as they are withdrawn from passenger service, is also being considered.

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