Which future for the local railway transport infrastructures?
Université Lille 1
Our project is dealing with the future of a certain type of land-transport infrastructures: the secondary railway network dedicated to freight, in the région Centre. This network is often very deteriorated because of the crisis of the rail freight in France since the 70s and the lack of maintenance that followed. This situation raises the issues of the future of these infrastructures and of the best function to give to this ground coverage which goes across a natural, social and economic area.
Since the early 2000s, in the name of sustainable development, projects in favour of the revival of rail freight on the secondary network bet particularly on a new type of actor named “Proximity Rail Operator” (French concept equivalent for the American “shortline railroad”), short distance logistician which is supposed to bring an ecological and economic sound solution. The project of an OFP in the région Centre, called “Proxirail”, was seen as the most advanced project less than 2 years ago. It actually never came into being because of governance and economic tensions issues. Most of the other OFP projects in France are going through similar difficulties to see the light.
In the light of this context, our project wants to study which are the stakeholders involved in the management of these railway infrastructures (operator, local population, entrepreneurs, local councillors...)? Which is their interaction mode? Which ecological arguments are mobilized along the debate on the future of these infrastructures? How? By whom? Which are the tensions between the national strategy of sustainable development and the local realities of regional development (environmental impact, modal report)? Which is the social acceptance about these questions in relation with the population’s way of life, aspirations, and perception of landscape?
To this end, our study is unfolding in two investigative stages :
- the first one has consisted in a bibliographical research to set the historical, legislative and regular context of the railway freight and of the use of the secondary network. It consisted as well in the establishment of the existing state of the art on shortliners. It has been completed by a round of interviews with national, regional and local players (historical operator, RFF, the French state, Chamber of commerce, entrepreneurs, local government) in order to identify the interactions between stakeholders and the terms of the debate about the future of local railway freight.
- the second phase is consisting in a field study to bring the first observations of the study to a concrete and territorialized scope. The field - a portion of the secondary network of the région Centre that undergoes renovation work that serves the same 2 towns as a major road which is about to get widened - has been chosen so it can highlight the stakes of these infrastructures in terms of social acceptance and impact on landscape. Through interviews of local councilors and loaders, and questionnaires to the population who live along both the railway and the major road, we want to answer several questions:
How are environmental considerations, landscape and report modal objectives are integrated by the stakeholders in the decision of launching renewal works on railway network /on the road?
What is the social acceptance by the local population of these 2 rival projects, according to its approaches of environmental quality, its expectations and mobility patterns?
Does the process of public consultation allows a genuine renegotiation of land use?