The story of a freight transport infrastructure


The early years of our existence were marked by a series of acquisitions in the field of private secondary network operation and industrial spurs (known as Installations Terminales Embranchées or ITE in French). In October 2007 we were awarded our safety certificate enabling us to use the national railway network. Find out more below about our key milestone dates since our foundation in 1998.

Find out more below about our key dates since our foundation in 1998

1998 : The start of our grand entrepreneurial adventure 


In 1998 SNCF, the French national railway corporation, set up a new private company dedicated to the provision of railway logistics services to industrial sites. VFLI was thus born and immediately took charge of the railway network of the Landes region (Voies Ferrées des Landes or VFL) a company transporting wood and other resinous products. At this time VFLI had a workforce of just 18 employees and generated turnover of just € 600 000 but would rapidly experience major development.


(Photo credit: Thierry Leleu / a VFLI train on the MaïsAdour industrial spur in Tartas)

1999 – 2007 : A period marked by an active acquisition policy



We acquired two companies, Énergies & Traction and Locotract and also took over the internal network serving the potassium mines of the Alsace region.


(VFLI Mines de Potasse d’Alsace -1999)




We set up Voies Ferrées du Morvan (VFM) to operate the line between Autun and Avalon along with Logistique et Services Intermodaux (LSI) for the industrial spur serving the Condat paper mill. The year 2000 also saw the acquisition of the Compagnie des Chemin de Fer Départementaux in Montmirail, and two other companies, namely Desbrugères in Noyon and Locorem in Liège.


(BB 66600 at the Autun depot in September 2000)





We bought up the rail transport activities of the Lorraine basin coalworks (Houillères du Bassin de Lorraine or HBL) and, under the name of VFLI Cargo, provided regular transport from the coking works in Carling.


(VFLI trains on the Carling industrial spur - 2001)



We took over HBL's training centre which became the European Multimodal Training Institute (IFEM) while our acquisition of Serma provided us with key competencies in the fields of automation and radio control and became our Engineering & Design department. We also set up an Infrastructure Engineering Centre, the vocation of which is to assist our industrial clients in the maintenance of their network or in the design of new installations. 


We began our collaboration with Tembec (now Fibre Excellence), handling a range of logistics operations for its Saint-Gaudens plant.

2006- 2007 : Establishing a foothold on the national railway network



Following the deregulation of the French rail freight market, VFLI obtained its licence to operate on 8 August 2006. On 3 October, the French Railway Safety Authority (EPSF) awarded us with our safety certificate, enabling us to legally operate as a rail transport company, in addition to the logistics and industrial spur services that we were already providing.


(Photo 2006 – Rombas) 



In the autumn, our very first transport operations on the National Rail Network (RFN) began: on 1st October, coke was transported from Carling to Dillingen in Germany and two days later VFLI shipped Renault automobiles from its plant in Corbehem to the port of Le Havre. 


2008 – 2014 : Consolidating our position



In a short space of time VFLI became seen as a precursor, proposing the haulage of railway maintenance machinery with one single agent instead of two, a standard that all other operators in the sector would subsequently seek to align themselves with.

We launched a first trial ballast renewal operation at a worksite base located in Creil. This marked the beginning of our collaboration with Meccoli, a company specialized in the laying of railway tracks. A partnership that has gone from strength to strength.

Nexans, leading manufacturer of electric cables and VFLI's very first client for industrial site services (in 1998) entrusted us with a major shipment of copper. Another of our early clients on the national railway network was Cemex, global leader for ready-mix concrete.

This year also saw the setting up of our national control centre which very rapidly switched to 24-hour, round-the-clock operation in order to effectively monitor all of our clients' rail traffic. We also expanded our site in Autun, where we established our national training centre for the different occupations associated with the rail freight industry. 




In January, Total inaugurated its new industrial spur in Carling, the result of a major overhaul project assigned to VFLI's Engineering & Design department in 2007.

On 6 April, we operated our very first electric traction multiple unit. Driven by a BB 27000 locomotive leased from Akiem, the train transported pallets of bulky, non-food products and beverages between Compiègne and Avignon (700 km) for Districhrono. This same year unfortunately saw the closure of the Carling coking plant, our long-standing client in the Moselle region.  




We bounced back from this setback as early as January 2010, clinching a number of new agreements: transport of waste for the Regional Authority of the Oise Valley (SMVO) and deliveries to silos in the Champagne Ardennes and Picardie regions for the starch wheat producer Roquette. Cargill also commissioned VFLI for the supply of raw materials to its Haubourdin site.

We then won a new contract with Omya for the transport of liquid chalk from its production plant in Omey to that of one of its customers in Port-du-Rhin. Lhoist, one of the leading lime producers in the world, chose us to haul its freight cars between Caffiers and Dunkerque.

Finally, having provided short haul shipping services between Vittel / Contrexéville and Merrey, Nestlé Waters asked us to provide long distance rail transport.




Two new industrial spur services were launched: Naphtachimie in Lavera and Total in Feyzin. Within the framework of its export project for the supply of alcohol-free beer to Saudia Ara, Kronenbourg decided to implement a new supply chain. Having already provided the brewer with logistics services for its production plant in Obernai and also spur services at the port on the river Rhine, we were now asked to run 3 trains per week to the port as well as providing on-site services at the container terminal in Strasbourg.





VFLI began operating a new combined transport line for Novatrans between Dourges, Valenton and Mouguerre. We also worked for Lafarge on the renewal of the A1 motorway, transporting some 40 000 tonnes of aggregates from the quarry in Cusset.

We also signed a new 3-year agreement with Greenmodal Transport (CMA-CGM) for the provision of combined transport solutions on 3 lines: Marseille-Lyon, Lyon-Ludwigshafen and Lyon-Duisburg.

At the end of the year we took delivery of our first two Euro 4000 diesel locomotives which were allocated for the transport of liquid chalk for Omy between Orgon and Condat-le-Lardin. 



Meccoli awarded us a 5-year contract covering several worksites. Up to ten locomotives driven by a team of fifteen drivers handled the deployment of one of three "Suites Rapides" (mobile railway renewal workshops) implemented within the framework of the national rail network renovation program.

Turning to building materials, 2013 saw VFLI launch a service for the Malet construction company, transporting more than one million tonnes of aggregates per year from the Cazères quarry close to Toulouse.

On the national railway network (RFN), Interval, the farming cooperative of the Franche Comté region took the decision to switch from road to rail and we started up a spot train service for cereal transport. Cargill then renewed its corn supply agreement for its Haubourdin site, requiring us to cover around forty dispatch sites, for the most part located in the Central and Rhône-Alpes regions.

Ecorail (freight forwarder known as Forwardis since 2016) entrusted us with the supply of wheat and corn to the Marckolsheim plant belonging to the Tereos sugar group.

Arkema renewed its faith in VFLI for its industrial sites in Carling and Pierre-Bénite.

Last but not least, on the equipment front, we modernized our Montmirail maintenance workshop and also took delivery of three new Euro 4000 locomotives.



For greater clarity, the decision was taken to merge all our subsidiaries. As a result, GEMAFER, CFDI (equipment maintenance) and IFEM (training) were grouped together under one company name: VFLI SAS.

Maintenance and management of our national rail network infrastructures was transferred to Sferis, a fellow subsidiary of SNCF.

Along with Saint-Avold and Morcenx, our Montmirail maintenance workshop was connected to the national rail network.

A major project was launched for Les Carrières de Voutré (quarry operator belonging to the Basaltes group). We also set up a new link between Fos-sur-Mer and the Nancy-Champigneulles terminal for the multimodal operator T3M.  

2015 – 2016 : Achieving adulthood, with no major concerns




In January, VFLI took delivery of 2 new Euro 4000 locomotives.

We began the year with several new freight agreements: transportation of sand for the freight car leasing company VTG Rail Logisitics, household waste in the Ain département for Forwardis and a series of new transport links for Fibre Excellence. The explosives specialist, Maxam, renewed its faith in us for the management of rail movements at its Mazingarbe spur.

We worked on behalf of Lafarge for the construction of the South Europe - Atlantic (SEA) high-speed link (LGV) and for Eiffage on a similar project in the Bretagne - Pays de Loire (BPL) region.

We successfully passed the audit for renewal of our ISO 9001 certification for provision of services to industrial sites.

In Q3 2015, thanks to the quality of our service provision at Tereos' site in Marckolsheim, we were chosen by the leading French sugar producer, once again via Forwardis, to supply its production plant in Nesle.

Following on from our work at the Carling and Feyzin spurs, Total asked us to perform the same services at its refineries in Donges and Le Havre as well as at its petrochemicals site in Gonfreville. Also at the request of Total, a weekly link was set up at the end of the year between Le Havre and Carling. From late September onwards, we also supplied glass-making sand to AGC Interpane, a leading flat glass and glazing specialist located in eastern France.

In October we widened our service proposal at Naphtachimie's Lavera site, leading us to switch to 24 hour round-the-clock operation. Both Cargill and Nexans rewarded our good work with the signature of new agreements. We also signed an agreement with Gefco, European leader for vehicle logistics, to handle transport from PSA's Ile Napoléon and Sochaux production sites to western France and also began honouring a major contract with Group Danone's Water Division, delivering Volvic and Evian bottled mineral water to its Worms hub in German. 



Meccoli, our long-standing client for railway maintenance work renewed its confidence in us for a further 2 years. We opened up new transportation services for Total Petrochemicals and Refining (TPR), operating more than a dozen trains per week from the petrochemical plants and refineries in Le Havre, Gonfreville l’Orcher, Feyzin and Lavéra in order to supply its customers with raw materials.

For Lafarge, between mid-May and the end of August, we transported some 50 000 tonnes of ballast for the Nîmes-Montpellier railway by-pass from the quarry in Cusset to the Générac worksite hub.

In July, for Eiffage, and in partnership with STSI (a company specialized in specific industrial transport) we transported the key elements for the construction of the Grenant viaduct.

Nestlé Waters once again called on our services for new connections between its Vittel and Contrexéville bottling plants and Arles in the south and we also signed a partnership agreement with the multimodal operator T3M for several transport links each week between Lille / Paris and Marseille.

In order to further our growth, we made a number of key investments, taking delivery of 6 new Euro 4000 locomotives.  


Don't hesitate to put us to the test

VFLI has today become a genuine benchmark in the field of freight transport.

Each and every member of our 900-strong workforce shares the same ambition, i.e. to make VFLI the "preferred rail operator in the market". Please feel free to contact us for further details and advice on implementing your freight transport projects and the organization of your railway spurs.






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