Night trains : the Ministry of Transport’s disappointing call for expression of interest

The call for expressions of interest in night train services, for which the Ministry of Transport is responsible, has just been published. It covers the following services :

Strasbourg Luxembourg – Nice Cerbère, Paris – Nice, Paris – Cerbère, Paris-Tarbes-Hendaye, Paris-Bourg Saint Maurice – Saint Gervais. However, The Paris-Briançon, Paris-Rodez and Paris-Latour-de-Carol services, described as “services of public interest”, are excluded from the call and entrusted to the SNCF with a public subsidy.

The Ministry of Transport has chosen to subsidise the SNCF with no productivity targets attached, but the amount of the subsidy could have made it possible to maintain other services by opening the market to alternative operators liable to submit offers covering several services and lines.

The call does not provide enough information on either current costs or revenue to allow a meaningful response and makes it clear that the State cannot be held liable for the little information it does provide. The call also includes incorrect data on the crucial issue of voltage levels and other parameters.

Will the Secretary of State be able to attract offers with no subsidy, no rolling stock and with harmonised pay and conditions not yet finalised?

Candidates are given barely two months to submit offers in response to the call. The administration will review them in June with a view to taking a decision in July.

No rolling stock will be provided to the new market entrants, who will be required to meet the entire cost of renting or purchasing rolling stock, with no guarantee, for example, that “SNCF Mobilités” will not compete with night trains by launching express coach services.

The train companies, members of AFRA, are prepared to submit offers for new services but find that the conditions set out in the call for expressions of interest are more of a hindrance than a help, not to speak of serious errors in the call documents which are surprising, to say the least.

The inescapable conclusion is that the choices made so far are unfavourable to trains at a time when 79% of the French population considers it would be good thing to have passenger transport services provided by alternative operators.

AFRA calls on the Secretary of State for Transport, as proposed in the call for expressions of interests, to provide all the necessary information so that the new market entrants can submit competitive offers.

Founded in March 2009, AFRA ( l’Association Française du Rail ) brings together railway sector stakeholders, which consider that the French market for freight and passenger transport will only be able to develop fully within an open, competitive and regulated market.

AFRA currently has the following rail companies among its members in passenger transport: Transdev, CFTA, Trenitalia Euro Cargo Rail/Arriva.

Contact AFRA :

+(33) 1 45 26 28 27- +(33) 6 27 22 83 44

www.assorail.fr