SNCF Voyageurs to operate Nouvelle Aquitaine trains till 2030
With five months to go until a new EU law comes into effect that requires all new rail service contracts to be put out to tender, the Nouvelle Aquitaine region and SNCF Voyageurs signed a new agreement for the operation and financing of the public regional rail passenger transport service. The new 7-year agreement covers the period from January 2024 to December 2030 and sets targets to meet the needs of the 60,000 daily commuters who use TERs on more than 3,410 km of lines in the region.
The new law requires all new rail service contracts signed after 25 December 2023 to be put out to tender. Before that date, the law allows for a direct agreement with SNCF Voyageurs for a maximum period of 10 years. The previous Transport express régional (TER) operating agreement with SNCF covers the period from 2019 to 2024 and showed positive results. During this period, there were 11 per cent more trains and 33 per cent more passengers, as well as improved services, in particular through the implementation of the overhaul of competitive services known as “Optim’TER”, as well as the RER Métropolitain network. The Nouvelle Aquitaine region has therefore opted to continue their collaboration with SNCF Voyageurs.
The agreement sets the target of reducing the environmental footprint by almost 20 per cent by 2030 and an ambition of 120,000 passengers a day by 2030. The Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region and SNCF Voyageurs have first agreed to aim to increase rail services by a total of 8 per cent, with 1.7 million additional trains per km, or 60 trains per day and around 22,000 trains per year. The Region and SNCF Voyageurs are also working in partnership to continue the growth in TER network use, with a target of a 30 per cent increase in revenue in 7 years, and a financial incentive mechanism to achieve this target.
A major aspect of this will be the finalising the overhaul of the Optim’TER service throughout the region (Poitou-Charentes and Limousin-Périgord), developing metropolitan RER services (Bordeaux, Bayonne), increasing frequencies, improving regularity, and optimising connections with the TGV and Intercités services. Other targets include a 34 per cent reduction in late trains, a high target for TER regularity, set at 98.2 per cent, a 20 per cent reduction in cancelled TER trains, and an improvement in rolling stock reliability of between 16 per cent and 25 per cent depending on the series.
The budget for incentives to improve service quality and customer satisfaction has been increased by 25 per cent, to around million euros per year. The development of the TER service is also accompanied by an investment plan estimated at more than 500 million euros over the period of the agreement, in particular, to support the development of the transport offer and the expected increase in traffic.
Investment in rolling stock
The operation of regional trains (excluding the acquisition of train sets) represents approximately 419 million euros in expenses, 104 million euros in revenue from ticket sales and compensation, and 315 million euros in subsidies granted by the Region to SNCF.
These investments mainly involve the maintenance of rolling stock, and the adaptation and reinforcement of maintenance facilities (in particular with the creation of new workshops in Limoges and Southern Aquitaine, and light maintenance facilities in Libourne, Saint-Mariens and Périgueux). This is in addition to investment in the acquisition of 11 Régiolis train sets and 4 Régio2N train sets worth 160 million euro, scheduled for 2022, and a 180-million-euro programme to refurbish 62 TER trains at the Périgueux technocentric in 2021.
In addition to taking over ownership of the rolling stock, effective from April 2023, the Region intends to become the owner of the TER maintenance workshops. The Region is also investing massively in the rail network, without which nearly 400 kilometres of lines could have closed since 2016.
Competition to come
Furthermore, in addition to the ongoing development of its own digital distribution tools, launched in 2021, the Region will gradually open up several lots to competition, in accordance with the “MFN” law. Under the new 2024-2030 contract, the Region plans to open up the Poitou-Charentes lot (lot A) to competition, with the new contractor due to bring it into service in 2027, and to award at least two other lots between now and the end of the current regional mandate.