fr SNCF TGV (Erich Westendarp Pixabay)

FRANCE: Taking advantage of the forthcoming liberalisation of domestic passenger services, open access operator Le Train has applied to transport regulation authority ART for powers to run regional high speed services in the southwest.

Envisaged as the first private high speed operator in France, evoking parallels with Italo-NTV in Italy, Le Train was established in February 2020 by Charente industrialist Tony Bonifaci, who heads up Société Nouvelle de Travaux Publics et de Génie Civil, based at L’Isle-d’Espagnac near Angoulême. Its Managing Director Alain Getraud is a former Director of Major Projects for SNCF Réseau in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region.

Getraud told local media that Le Train was looking to operate over the LGV Sud-Europe Atlantique from the timetable change on December 11 2022, although he accepted that this would depend on ‘the evolution of the health situation’, following the coronavirus pandemic.

He confirmed that the company intends to procure a fleet of ‘about 10’ high speed trains with 350 seats, comparable to SNCF’s original single-deck trainsets which he described as ‘fairly standard’. However, he did not explain how Le Train intended to source its rolling stock.

According to a notification published on the ART website on April 28, Le Train envisages operating a ‘main axis’ linking Arcachon – Bordeaux – Angoulême – Poitiers – La Rochelle, with some weekend services extended to Nantes and Rennes.

LGV SEA was built by the Lisea consortium under a PPP concession, and the concessionaires have previously expressed interest in attracting additional business to the line, including a putative London – Bordeaux service.

Other operators that have registered their interest in entering the French high speed market include Trenitalia on the Paris – Lyon – Milano corridor and Renfe on the Paris – Barcelona and Lyon – Marseille routes. Trenitalia-backed Spanish operator ILSA is also bidding to run a Madrid – Montpellier service.