The State relaunched on Friday the competition for the Intercités Nantes-Lyon and Nantes-Bordeaux trains, which it had interrupted at the end of 2020 when the SNCF was the only candidate, announced the Ministry of Transport. “Due to the health crisis, the competitive bidding procedure for the award of the operating contract for these two lines could not be completed,” he explained in a press release.
The government then mentioned the “economic difficulties encountered by railway players following the health crisis” and “the lack of a reliable prospect of resumption of traffic”, two factors preventing, according to him, “fair and equitable competition”, likely to ” guarantee the best service to the user at the best price”.
A future Nantes-Lille link?
Once interested, the operators Arriva (Deutsche Bahn group), EuroRail and Transdev had decided not to submit offers, leaving the SNCF alone in the race. The new version of the call for tenders now provides “that the candidates propose an optional offer for the development of a link between Nantes and Lille” which would pass through Angers, Le Mans, Caen, Rouen and Amiens, specified the ministry on Friday.
This new line will be launched, or not, “depending on the result of the offers received”, he added. “The start of operation by the new contract holder is planned for 2027”, once the winner of the call for tenders has been designated, he envisages.
Opening up to competition in other regions
The Intercités, officially called “territorial balance trains” (TET), are subsidized by the State, which has announced its intention to develop their network. They must be operated by SNCF until 2031, but the agreement signed in March with the company provides that part of the lines will be gradually opened to competition by then. At the same time, several regions have already begun to open up their TERs to competition, organized as for the Intercités by the 2018 railway law.
The Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region has already awarded two “lots” after issuing calls for tenders, Paris-Toulon-Nice to Transdev and the “Nice star” to the SNCF. The procedures – more or less advanced – are underway in the Grand Est, the Hauts-de-France, Ile-de-France, Pays-de-la-Loire and Bourgogne-France-Comté.