In support of pilot projects in rail passenger transport.

The rail companies who comprise the membership of AFRA (Association Française du Rail) are ready to support regional authorities wishing to begin the move to open their rail passenger markets to competition. To initiate the process, they are proposing assistance in establishing pilot projects as promptly as possible to identify the solutions most appropriate to the success of controlled opening of the public service to competition.

AFRA’s view is that the introduction of competition in France should not only draw on the experience of other countries; it should start with an initial adjustment phase, to be launched without delay. Only pilot projects can successfully identify best solutions regarding workforce policy and relations, scope of delegation, ownership of rolling stock, station management, essential facilities, standards of performance – and avoiding improvisation.
As stated by AFRA’s President Alain Thauvette, “the process entails invitations to tender, in the immediate future, for both inter-regional and regional express rail services. Additionally, it requires the setting up of task forces bringing together all the stakeholders under the aegis of the French administration”*.
This is AFRA’s affirmative response to Alain Rousset, President of the Aquitaine Regional Council and ARF (Association des Régions de France) who referred, at the national public transport forum held on November 13, 2013, in Bordeaux, to the need to open a new phase in the regionalization of TER services by granting regions the status of fully-empowered organizing authorities. He also expressed the wish that the regions “be able to introduce competition into the provision of their rail services”.
That is surely an opportunity not to be missed, with the attention of national policymakers focussed on the rail sector reform bill, in connection with the 4th Railway Package currently under consideration by the European Institutions.
The principle of competitiveness in public service contracts was formulated by EU Regulation 1370/2007, governing “public service obligations”, which moreover required member States to submit a progress report to the European Commission by June 2015 at the latest.
Work must now begin on making the rail sector competitive, by suppressing the present legal, technical and economic barriers.
It has become urgent to take action.
*Les positions de l’AFRA” – editorial by Alain Thauvette, November 2013, on AFRA’s website assorail.fr.   

***
Association Française du Rail (AFRA).
AFRA was founded in March 2009. Its members are all those holding the opinion that the French rail sector (passenger and freight) can only develop fully against a backdrop of open and regulated competitiveness.
They include: the passenger transport operators Transdev, CFTA and Trenitalia, Euro Cargo Rail (a subsidiary of DB Schenker Rail), Europorte (Eurotunnel Group), Trenitalia, Colas Rail, ETF Services, a subsidiary of ETF (Vinci Group), T3M, a rail freight and combined transport specialist, OFP Atlantique, and Vossloh, a rail equipment manufacturer.

Contact /Jacques Malécot: AFRA Chief Executive. Tel: +(33) 1 75 44 87 59;  +(33) 6 27 22 83 44
www.assorail.fr