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Railway tunnel has a new line in cheese production

Cool temperatures make the disused rail infrastructure perfect for maturing dairy products

Staff member making organic cheese in ancient French railway tunnel last used by trains in 1962 Pic: laitage.dor / Instagram

The prospect of another sweltering summer poses no worries for a dairy in southern France – it has bought a disused railway tunnel to keep its products cool.

Laiterie Fabre, based in Viane, Tarn, was inspired to use the space during a heatwave in 2003, but it took another seven years to complete the purchase.

Read more: France heatwave tips: How to sleep, keep cool and stay healthy

“It was very, very complicated,” the firm’s accountant, Guillaume De Smet, told The Connexion.

“There were at least three different owners – SNCF, the region, and part of it was already private. It took a long time before everyone decided they were allowed to, and wanted to, sell to the dairy.”

The 110m tunnel, on the Castres and Murat-sur-Vèbre line has temperatures that fluctuate between a cool 9C and 10C. The tunnel is used mainly as an overflow maturing space during spring and summer when milk production peaks.

“We also have some special cheeses, especially organic ones, that we only mature in the tunnel. Having them in a space where there is no temperature control from refrigerators fits in with our organic ethos,” said Mr De Smet.

Laterie Fabre specialises in sheep cheeses, which the Tarn is famous for, as well as yoghurts. It also makes cow and goat cheeses, with almost all the milk producers based within 30km of the dairy.

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