Disused station

FRANCE: The 89 km route from Nancy to Contrexéville, much of which has been closed to passenger and freight traffic since 2016, is to reopen in December 2027. This follows the award by the Grand Est regional council on May 24 of a contract to a private-sector consortium formed of Transdev SA, NGE Concessions and Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations.

The ‘audacious’ 22-year concession deal is worth €721m and covers both rehabilitation of the line at a cost of €150m plus management of the infrastructure and operations. Following detailed studies, work on the ground is expected to start in April 2025.

For infrastructure management purposes the line is being split into three sections: 13 km from Jarville-la-Malgrange on the Nancy – Sarrebourg main line to Pont-St-Vincent, where some passenger services still run; the 4 km freight-only section from Pont-St-Vincent to Xeuilley; and 60∙5 km from Xeuilley to Vittel, where no trains have run since 2016.

Significantly, the contract entails transfer of ownership of the alignment from the state to the Grand Est région. This is the first example of a policy derived from a February 2018 report by former Chairman of Air France-KLM Jean-Cyril Spinetta that advocated transfer of responsibility for minor routes from central government to regional authorities.

Once the line has been restored to operational condition, the concessionaire will run 14 return trips on Mondays to Fridays, plus a short working between Nancy and Mirecourt. On Saturdays there will be 13 return services to Pont-St-Vincent and eight to Contrexéville with two short workings; on Sundays and bank holidays nine services will run to and from Contrexéville and four to Pont-St-Vincent. Trains will operate at a maximum speed of 115 km/h.

The contract stipulates infrastructure availability of 99∙5% plus a commitment to 98% of services running within 2 min 59 sec of the timetable. In addition, the concessionaire undertakes to provide assistance to travellers within 45 min of an ‘unforeseen situation’.

President of the Grand Est région Franck Leroy said that ‘reopening a line reaffirms our commitment to the territories, their accessibility and their attractiveness. It’s also a marker for a région committed to providing residents with a transport service everywhere and for everyone.’

Awarding contracts of this nature to revive run-down local infrastructure is part of the Grand Est région’s long-term strategy set out in the Pact for Rural Areas agreed on April 5.

A rival bid was received from Keolis with SNCF Voyageurs and Eiffage, while Vinci and Regioneo are understood to have withdrawn from the contest.