On the initiative of Voies navigables de France, manager of the Canal du Midi, three companies tested the transport of goods on the waterway in Toulouse. The objective, in the short term, is to relaunch this transport on a large scale.
The Canal du Midi irrigates the city center of Toulouse, so why not make it a full-fledged transport route? The idea of Voies navigables de France (VNF) is to revive barge transport: construction materials, goods, parcels, etc. Waking up the sleeping canal means, above all, participating in the fight against atmospheric pollution, estimates the manager of the channel.
A 120-ton barge means six semi-trailers or twenty-five vans, less on the ring road or in the streets of Toulouse… avoiding traffic jams. Navigating the canal is also a whole organization to put in place: unloading docks, storage of goods, coordination.
“No need for speed, but punctuality guaranteed on the Canal du Midi”
But it is possible, VNF proved yesterday, with the collaboration of three Toulouse companies, and the financing of the Modal Ratio Assistance Plan (State). A flat-bottomed boat from the Eseac company, with a capacity of one ton, “played” the barge from Lalande, on the lateral canal, north of Toulouse. Bike delivery men have their crates to transport. Destination, the port of Saint-Sauveur, right in the center of Toulouse. Result, in less than two hours, the goods were delivered. After passing through three locks, and cruising at 8 km / h, maximum authorized speed. And other cargo bike delivery men were able to pick up the goods, to deliver them to the city center.
“For our company Les Alchimistes, which collects food waste all over town for recycling, this type of transport is interesting. We collect two tonnes per day in supermarkets, canteens, restaurants, and we transform them into compost in our premises, located in Fondeyre. We have about sixty customers, but at the end of 2023, this will be mandatory for all shops, restaurants, canteens. Sometimes we do four tours in one morning, and we’re going to ramp up. We could do all of this in a truck, but on the canal, that’s the future, ”explains Paul Chevallier. Employed by the Alchemists for 1 year, he was joined by three other people, proof of the dynamism of the sector.
“Locomotives” like Tisséo or SNCF are hoped to boost river freight
For Gaëtan Corbé, from the Greenburo company, “the Lalande-Toulouse-center axis is very interesting. We collect office waste, paper, cardboard, but also light bulbs, ink cartridges, furniture, everywhere in town. Barge carriers make sense. We have no speed requirement, and punctuality is guaranteed. For both companies, as for Applicolis, a 25-strong company based in Compans-Caffarelli, the frequency of the boats, the storage of products on the docks and the quality of the infrastructure will be decisive.
“To make the system viable in the long term, it will now be necessary for dozens of other companies to show their interest, and we need locomotives”, does not hide Ghislain Frambourt. The deputy director of VNF Sud-Ouest hopes that major clients, such as Tisséo as part of the construction site for the 3rd metro line, will use river transport. In the short and medium term, the LGV worksite between Toulouse and Bordeaux must also fall into the purse of the river. “This is the right time,” we wrote there. The climate emergency is there, the Low Emission Zone is meeting in place to reduce pollutant emissions in the city ”.
A “call heard” by several companies
Voies navigables de France, manager of the Deux-Mers canal (Canal du Midi and lateral canal to the Garonne) on behalf of the State, launched in July 2021, a “Call for expression of interest” (AMI) for river transport in downtown Toulouse.
Businesses demonstrated until the end of October to come forward. “This is a first step, before the implementation of a call for projects,” explains Ghislain Frambourt, deputy director of VNF Sud-Ouest. Several companies, including those which participated in the experiment yesterday between Lalande and Port Saint-Sauveur, have already been identified. VNF provides one hectare of land and a 1,334 m2 building in Lalande, as well as four loading and unloading docks in the city center, on the Canal du Midi: Port de l’Embouchure, quai du Conseil départemental, quai des Minimes and Saint-Sauveur port.