Network Rail has joined the Rail Freight Corridor (RFC) North Sea-Mediterranean to strengthen trade links between the UK and mainland Europe by extending the corridor.

The RFC 2 is a freight route connecting the Netherlands, Belgium, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, France and Switzerland. It starts from the two the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp, and reaches Basel and Lyon as gateways to Italy via Switzerland, and Spain via the South of France.

The RFC North Sea-Mediterranean will be extended to London by next November.

Network Rail will join the existing four members of RFC ProRail, Infrabel, SNCF Réseau and Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Luxembourgeois (CFL), and three partners Schweizerische Bundesbahnen (SBB), Trasse Schweiz (TS) and Administration des Chemins de Fer Luxembourgeois (ACF).

"The RFC North Sea-Med is considered one of the main routes for freight into Europe and is key to that plan."

The rail freight industry currently contributes more than £1.6bn to the UK economy and is expected to increase to £2bn by 2023.

Network Rail noted that the corridor will benefit its freight customers and other European operators by enhancing connectivity from the UK to France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland via the Channel Tunnel.

Once the extension is complete, it will make planning freight services easier through a ‘one-stop shop’ for freight operators to book pre-planned freight paths connecting London with Europe.

Operators will be better informed about infrastructure, maintenance and repair work across the continent as information is more easily shared along the corridor.

Network Rail freight director Paul McMahon said: "We have been preparing for this for the last few years and I now look forward to working with our partners in the corridor and freight operators to support the growth of rail freight between continental Europe and the UK.

"Our network is extremely busy and we now carry 30% more freight than we did in 2012. We want to grow that figure, strengthening our economy. The RFC North Sea-Med is considered one of the main routes for freight into Europe and is key to that plan."

The extended freight line will help reduce the burden placed by freight movements on the country’s roads.

As part of this initiative, Network Rail joins the RFC North Sea-Med management board, which also Eurotunnel, ProRail, Infrabel, SNCF Réseau, ACF and CFL, Trasse Schweiz and SBB.

Image: Paul McMahon at RFC North Sea-Med extension signing ceremony in Luxembourg. Photo: courtesy of Network Rail.