Bordeaux st Jean station, image: SNCF Réseau

Railcoop has to delay Bordeaux-Lyon service for 6 months

French cooperative Railcoop is postponing the launch of its Bordeaux-Lyon passenger service by six months. The requested train paths have not been allocated by infrastructure manager SNCF Réseau, making the initial launch of 26 June 2022 impossible. 

Railcoop’s board of directors met on 5 October and decided to postpone the launch of the Bordeaux-Lyon passenger line by six months, meaning that the Bordeaux-Lyon line will be launched on 11 December 2022, just before the 2023 annual service.

Railcoop will still launch its first rail service, a freight line, from 15 November 2021 between the Lot and Aveyron regions and the Toulouse-St Jory logistics hub.

No train paths after 18 months of talks

SNCF Réseau is not in a position to provide the cooperative with quality train paths, despite discussions on this subject for more than eighteen months, says Railcoop. This was done in close coordination with the regions of Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes where the line runs through.

Of all the traffic requests made, only 55 percent have been filled by SNCF Réseau, provided that Railcoop finances the opening of slots (which were deemed to be open when the service was designed with SNCF Réseau). The remainder of the train paths are either not filled at all or only partially filled, in particular with origin-destination pairs that differ from the initial request.

Members and regions

Initially, Railcoop requested three Bordeaux-Lyon return journeys. The night return journey had been rejected from the outset by SNCF Réseau. In addition to the two Bordeaux-Lyon return journeys, Railcoop had then envisaged a Limoges-Lyon return journey and a single Montluçon-Lyon journey.

Railcoop is a corporate structure that was able to raise 1.5 million euros in March 2021. This amount is needed to obtain a train operating licence, and was achieved thanks to the contribution of 6,000 shareholders. Interesting is that, in addition to the individual memberships, several local authorities on the routes of the operator have also joined.

Possible infringement procedure

Railcoop says the inability of the infrastructure manager to offer train paths to a new railway company such as themselves raises questions at a time when the opening up of the market is supposed to be effective from December 2020. Railcoop is now considering whether to formally refer the matter to the Transport Regulation Authority as part of an infringement procedure.

In any case, the cooperative hopes that with a collective mobilisation of its members and supporters, SNCF Réseau ‘can provide the service it is responsible for in an efficient manner’. They underline that the infrastructure manager is also receiving 4 billion euros in state aid as part of the French relaunch programme to build back after the corona crisis.

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Author: Esther Geerts

Editor of RailTech.com

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