Tenders to operate inter-urban TER services between Marseille, Toulon and Nice are to be called in February 2020.

FRANCE: Région Sud (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur) has selected Transdev for a 10-year concession to operate regional trains between Marseille, Toulon and Nice, ahead of rival bids from incumbent operator SNCF and open access company Thello, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Trenitalia since 2016.

Tenders for the concession were launched by the region in February 2020. Subject to a confirmatory vote in the region’s plenary assembly on October 29, Transdev will take over the ‘Intermetropole’ group of services in 2025, doubling the number of trains per day from seven to 14 each way. This equates to around 2∙45 million train-km a year, compared with 1∙3 million train-km operated by SNCF in 2019. The concession is valued at around €870m.

TER services on the Nice – Tenda route would be operated under a tendered contract from December 2024.

SNCF is understood to have been the sole bidder for a second group of TER services covering the trains from Nice to Les Arcs-Draguignan and Ventimiglia, the branch from Cannes to Grasse and the Nice – Breil-sur-Roya – Tende line. It will therefore be awarded this concession subject to a similar approval by the region’s plenary assembly.

During this 10-year concession the operator will be expected to ramp up services from 69 to 120 trains each way per day across the various routes, including a 15 min interval service along the Mediterranean coast. Worth around €1·5bn, the package provides for the number of train-km operated each year to rise from 3∙1 million in 2019 to about 4∙3 million.

Announcing the results on September 8, Région Sud said the concession bids had ‘demonstrated the success of opening up [TER services] to competition, allowing a significant improvement of the offer for users as well as ensuring a fair price for the region’.

The region had announced its intention to open up TER services to competition in February 2019. Its President Renaud Muselier is strongly in favour of competition, promising in December 2019 that trains would run to time with cheaper fares and better service quality.