Calais-Dunkerque by rail: a long-awaited modernisation

Calais promotes itself as France's number-one port for passengers and, thanks to the Channel tunnel, boasts a special link to the United Kingdom. For its part, Dunkerque is France's number-three port in terms of traffic. The modernisation of the rail line linking these two towns will benefit the inhabitants of the northern region of France as well as the citizens of the United Kingdom. With regard to commercial traffic, it should facilitate transshipment of containers from the port of Dunkerque to rail. Benefits in the areas of comfort, safety and the environment.

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Calais and Dunkerque are 37 km apart as the crow flies and 47 km by roadway. The single track rail line that currently connects them is run-down, under-equipped, not entirely electrified, and fails to meet passenger expectations. The new line will facilitate commuting and alleviate road traffic, which is heavy in this sector, by offering commuters the option to travel by railway instead of by roadway.

Top of the line technology

Thirty-five kilometres of track will be renovated by replacing some of the rails, sleepers and ballasts. Three railway bridges will be replaced and three others upgraded.

Various improvements will be made to the signalling: movement of announcement triggers; automation of the Gravelines station; improvement of the signalling system enabling trains to be spaced out; automation of 13 unguarded level crossings; installation of a remote surveillance system for the facilities.

The electrification works mainly consist in the installation of catenaries and remote-controlled circuit breakers as well as adaptation of the central system in the Lille substation.

Acoustic and electromagnetic protection systems will be installed. Some civil engineering works will be performed, specifically for drainage equipment or adaptation of platforms.

Immediate benefits

These upgrades will enable daily circulation of faster trains. It will be possible to run 750 m-long trains and it is will no longer be necessary to change locomotives (diesel/electric) at the ends of the line. Additional benefits: these innovations will reduce operating costs.

Not only will this project improve access to the ports of Dunkerque and Calais, it will also reinforce overall options for multimodal transport. The links to the platforms being built (the Transmarck-Turquerie logistics transport hub in Calais) or the development of this maritime route (Calais port 2015) will be improved.

Over 500 jobs are expected to be created during the project execution phase. The new line will also offer a quick connection – from Dunkerque or Calais – to Hazebrouck, a town close to the Belgian border that is serviced by the Northern European TGV. Therefore, this project falls within the framework of European rail policy.


Total cost and EU funding

The “Calais–Dunkerque rail line modernisation” represents a total investment of EUR 104 628 578. The contribution from the European regional development fund comes to EUR 30 000 000 under the “Nord-Pas-de-Calais” operational programme for the 2007-2013 planning period, under the “Accessibility” priority.


Draft date

09/04/2014