FRANCE: Ile-de-France is seeking to accelerate the opening up of local rail services to competition, regional President Valérie Pécresse announced on February 5.

In line with the provisions of the EU’s Fourth Railway Package, the French regional passenger market is being liberalised with effect from January 1 2023. Under the government’s current timescale however, the eight Paris RER routes operated by SNCF’s Transilien business unit are due to be tendered in a phased programme starting with Line E in 2025 and concluding with lines A and B, which are managed by Paris city transport operator RATP, in 2040. However, this timetable only covers five of the eight, with no confirmed plan for tendering suburban lines J, P and R.

Pécresse said that the Ile-de-France region would press the government to ‘accelerate the market opening of RER, tram and metro services’ to ensure this happens by 2030 at the latest. Over the course of this year, it would assemble an evidence base to underpin the tendering process, and issue a prior information notice for the RER network outlining the current status of the network, supported by the incumbent operator and by infrastructure manager SNCF Réseau.

There would be a particular focus on assessing the case for lines J, P and R to be tendered during 2023-25, and the region intends to have several routes ready for handover by the end of 2023.

Reflecting on a year of disruptive strike action across the RER network, Pécresse said that local passengers had been ‘especially affected’. As a result, one of the lessons she has learnt from this ‘painful episode’ was the need to ‘accelerate the arrival of competition in order to reduce the cost of rail services while improving the quality of service’. Noting that Ile-de-France Mobilités would need to strengthen its role as the co-ordinating body covering all modes across the greater Paris region, she emphasised that the liberalisation process ‘begins today’.