X72500 train

FRANCE: Open access operator Railcoop has indefinitely postponed the launch of its planned Lyon – Bordeaux passenger service, which had been scheduled to start with the December timetable change.

On March 30 the co-operative community interest group released a statement confirming the deferral of its entry into the passenger market. This had already been put back by six months from June to December 2022 because of problems agreeing paths between Lyon and Bordeaux via Limoges with SNCF Réseau, despite no regular through trains using the route at present.

Railcoop has accumulated working capital of €7m generated largely from its 12 000 mutual members, and it employs 33 staff. However, it admitted that it is not at present in a position to launch an open access passenger service because it requires more support from institutional investors and potentially from the public sector.

Its statement acknowledged that banks have found it difficult to agree to fund a prospective open access service in a market where there is little precedent for such initiatives. Talks with local authorities over possible subsidy were ongoing, it added.

A further reason for the postponement is the lack of available rolling stock to support a December launch. Railcoop has bought nine second-hand X72500 DMUs from SNCF Voyageurs, eight three-car sets for Lyon – Bordeaux plus one two-car set for spares. Although it will not have enough of these refurbished by December to allow trains to run, it hopes to begin overhauling at least one of the three-car DMUs later in April.

As a result, Railcoop does not intend to launch the passenger service until its long-term financial structure is finalised and the requisite rolling stock is ready for traffic. It is not giving a timeline for these objectives to be met.