FRANCE: ‘Between four and 10’ companies or consortia have prequalified for a concession to operate a group of branch lines in the Grand Est region, according to the region’s Vice-President responsible for Transport David Valence.

Commenting on the response to a call for tenders launched in July last year, Valence told local media that ‘the market has responded well, beyond our expectations’. Bids were reportedly received from organisations in France and other countries for assessment and shortlisting by the region’s Commission de Délégation de Service Public.

Among prequalified bidders is Régionéo, a partnership of RATP Dev (55%) and Channel Tunnel operator Getlink (45%) set up last September, working with Meridiam and Groupe Colas. Other bidders understood to have prequalified include SNCF subsidiary Keolis partnered with Eiffage and Transdev allied to construction group BTP NGE and Caisse des Dépôts.

The next step will be the publication of a call for tenders during the first half of this year setting out detailed requirements, with a view to awarding contracts for the first two lots in 2023.

The initial lot covers the so-called Bruche-Piémont-Vosges group of services and will be let on a vertically-integrated basis for 22 years. It consists of rail operations and related bus services on the following routes:

  • Strasbourg – Molsheim – Barr – Séléstat (51 km);
  • Strasbourg – Molsheim (19 km);
  • Strasbourg – Molsheim – Saales - Saint-Dié-des-Vosges – Épinal (147 km).

The 60 km section of line from Saint-Dié-des-Vosges to Épinal has been closed since December 2018 with trains replaced by buses. However, rail services are due to be restored by the end of this year thanks to an allocation of €21m for track and infrastructure repairs. At the moment services on this group of routes total 1 500 000 train-km/year.

The concessionaire will be required to repair and maintain the sections of line between Arches and St-Dié-des-Vosges, between St-Dié-des-Vosges and Molsheim, and between Sélestat and Obernai. Maintenance of the multiple-unit fleet made available by the Grand Est region will also fall within the concessionaire’s remit.


The second lot will also be let on the basis of vertical integration, through a form of public-private partnership. This covers restoration of rail services on the 89 km route from Nancy to Mirecourt, Vittel and Contrexéville, where no passenger trains have run since December 2016; the operation of related bus services form part of the requirement. Grand Est has requested a transfer of responsibility for this line under the Loi d’Orientation des Mobilités adopted on December 24 2019 and which came into force around 12 months later.

The winning bidder will be required to finance and implement restoration of the 81 km section between Jarville, Pont-Saint-Vincent and Vittel. Work is expected to cost €66m, which the concessionaire would repay over the 22-year period of the contract with an expectation that 870 000 train-km would be operated annually. Journey time between Nancy and Vittel would be around 1 h with trains running at hourly intervals on weekdays.

Reopening is envisaged by 2025, after which the concessionaire would be responsible for maintaining infrastructure and rolling stock made available by the region.

Grand Est expects to award a contract for a further group of services in 2025. This consists of seven routes that cross the border into Germany; a contract for 30 Coradia Polyvalent trainsets to work these services was awarded in October 2019.