FRANCE: Trenitalia subsidiary Thello has notified rail regulator ARAFER of its intention to launch the first open access passenger services on the French high speed network. The regulator announced on June 4 that Thello had requested paths from SNCF Réseau for a twice-daily service between Milano and Paris to start from June 2020.

Leaving both cities around 07.00 and 15.00 each day, the proposed trains would offer a journey time of under 7 h, with intermediate stops at Torino, Modane, Chambery Challes Les Eaux and Lyon Part Dieu. Services would be worked by Trenitalia’s Frecciarossa 1000 trainsets, which were designed to have a multi-system capability for international operation, enabling the trains to use LGV Sud-Est. The trains would have to be fitted with KVB to operate in France and TVM 430 to run on the high speed lines. Each train would be able to carry up to 457 passengers, with 300 standard class seats, 76 Premium, 69 Business and 10 Executive, as well as two wheelchair spaces.

With the start date coming ahead of the December 2020 liberalisation of domestic commercial services under the Fourth Railway Package, the regulator is currently assessing the Thello proposal to determine whether the services are primarily international or intended to compete for domestic business within France.

According to Thello, the service is intended ‘to expand Trenitalia's international transport offer’ and ‘enrich’ the existing Paris – Milano service operated by SNCF, which cannot use the Torino – Milano high speed line. ‘For the first years of operation’, it says the main target would be Italian customers; traffic on the Paris – Lyon leg is expected to amount to between 10% and 30% of total turnover.

Thello already holds a European safety certificate enabling it to operate in France, where it runs overnight sleeper trains from Venezia to Paris and open access services on the Marseille – Nice – Milano corridor. It began negotiations with safety regulator EPSF in May for authorisation to run on the high speed network.