FRANCE: Operation of the Nantes – Châteaubriant tram-train route and regional rail services in western France is to be competitively tendered, the Pays de la Loire regional government confirmed on July 17.
Subject to further discussions, the region is looking to award one or two 10-year public service contracts, which it hopes would come into force with the timetable change on December 10 2023.
One package covers tram-train services from Nantes to Nort-sur-Erdre, Châteaubriant and Clisson. These totalled 800 000 train-km in 2018, and a potential expansion to 1 million train-km/year is envisaged by 2030.
The ‘Sud Loire’ package covers regional rail routes from Nantes to Pornic, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, La Roche-sur-Yon, Les Sables d’Olonne, La Rochelle and Cholet, plus the Angers – Cholet line. These totalled 2 million train-km in 2018, but a substantial increase to 4·2 million is envisaged by 2030.
Further details of the scope of the services will be provided when the region goes out consultation on the proposals. This process will consider the potential market requirements as well as the nature and quantity of services to be operated.
Reflecting the requirements of EU Regulation 1370/2007, the contracts would run for a maximum of 120 months. The current expectation is the contracts would be awarded in the second half of 2022 so that operations can begin from December 2023 ‘at the earliest’, but the start date may be modified to reflect the progress of the tendering procedure.
While detailed requirements are expected to be fine-tuned following the consultation, the winning bidders would be expected to operate regional passenger services within designated geographical area, along with related tasks that may include the provision of additional feeder or substitute bus services.
A key requirement will be to ‘improve the effective quality of the service provided to passengers’. This will include ‘commercial communication and promotion of the network, in co-ordination with the region’.
Pays de la Loire will provide the successful tenderer(s) with rolling stock for each package, with the operators responsible for maintenance. The current fleet comprises the Alstom Citadis Dualis Class U53500 tram-trains, and a mix of X76500 XGC diesel railcars, Z51500 electric and B84500 dual-mode Régiolis multiple-units for Sud Loire. This stock was procured by SNCF but funded by the regional government.
The operator would be responsible for managing stations where it is the only user, which includes many of those on the regional lines. This will include the provision of passenger information, and the sale of tickets using a mixture of staffed offices, ticket machines and online channels; the region may look to provide a centralised ticketing system covering multiple operators.
The concessionaires would be required to ‘ensure the fight against fraud’, by implementing the necessary ‘preventive and security actions’.
Financial support will be provided in line with the public service obligations and the contract specifications. Remuneration would reflect the level and quality of the service provided and the ridership achieved, and/or the revenue generated.
Existing staff will be entitled to transfer to the new operator(s) in line with national legislation, retaining continuity of service and employment rights under the provisions of the collective agreement for the rail sector.
In addition to the basic operating requirements, the region says bidders must be prepared to finance and implement some specific improvement projects.
For Sud Loire this would include heavy renovation of the XGC diesel railcars, modernisation of existing depot facilities and the design, construction and operation of a dedicated workshop.
The tram-train package would include management of the infrastructure on the Nantes – Châteaubriant line, ‘under conditions to be defined’.