Combiwest liquidated, with boss blaming SNCF

Combiwest slider-4French combined transported operator Combiwest has gone into liquidation with the loss of 59 jobs.

The company founded in 2009 by farmers in Brittany was liquidated on Friday 22 April by the Brest Commercial Court. However, company president Jean-François Jacob expressed anger at what he saw as the “shackles” placed on the operator by state railway company SNCF.

“Operating conditions do not allow us to secure the survival of the company,” Jacob was quoted as saying in business newspaper Les Echos. “We do not have in France the conditions to sustain such a structure.”

In particular, Jacob claimed Combiwest’s business model was viable but accused SNCF of blocking the allocation of sufficient train paths to allow the private company to make railing containers between Brittany, Lyon and Marseilles profitable. Les Echos reported that SNCF strongly denied this allegation, countering with its own claim that Combiwest had not paid some €6 million in fees to the network operator over the past three years.

Founded by regional agricultural co-operative SICA de Saint-Pol-de-Léon, Combiwest, headquartered in Rennes, mainly carried containerised fruit and vegetables from Brittany. However, it also moved tank containers for bulk liquid shippers such as Nantua-based Transports Marmeth. Combiwest was placed in judicial recovery at the end of January.

“There seems no desire (in France) to see a private player in this sector,” Jacob was also quoted as saying following the liquidation. “It is shocking that in this country, the free movement of goods on rail is still not assured.”