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Author Topic: Railcoop - French cooperative targets Bordeaux–Lyon open-access from 2022  (Read 1356 times)
Transport Scholar
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« on: June 14, 2020, 09:04:17 pm »

From International Rail Journal:
Currently passengers travelling between the two cities – which are separated by 556km by road – require a change in Paris. This journey takes 5h 26min on the fastest TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse) connection, with a 1h 19min connection in Paris.

The company is planning to offer three trains per day via Libourne, Périgueux, Limoges, Guéret, Montluçon, Saint-Germain-des-Fossés and Roanne and is proposing a 6h 47 min journey time.

While considerably longer than the 5h 30min car journey and the equivalent trip by TGV, Railcoop hopes that time will be offset by onboard services and greater comfort. The trains are set to feature a children’s play area, catering and storage for luggage, skis and surfboards.

The lowest priced ticket for the journey will be set at €38 and pre-Covid-19 projections were for 690,000 passengers per year to use the service. A study by Systra confirmed the strong potential for the route and Railcoop hopes to attract motorists and benefit from the curtailing of domestic air travel in France.

Founded in November 2019 as France’s first cooperative society of collective interest for railways (SCIC), Railcoop says it has confirmed its intentions to France’s Regulatory Transport Authority (ART) on June 9, which will investigate whether the planned service conflicts with an existing public service. A decision of whether to grant the operator the necessary train paths will be confirmed by September 2021.

The company is also targeting the introduction of freight trains from the second half of 2021 and hosted a meeting of around 30 companies in February interested in pursuing alternative logistics.

A sticking point for the operator might be the €1.5m share capital, the minimum threshold for obtaining a railway operating license. The cooperative must recruit 3000 members and to date, according to Capital, has raised 10% of the sum from 360 members.

France is set to open its rail market to competition for the first time from December 2021. The Ministry of Transport published a tender in January for the operation of Intercities services between Nantes and Bordeaux and Nantes and Lyon on the Balance of Territory (TET) inter-city network, currently operated by SNCF (Societe Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais - French National Railways) Mobility from the beginning of 2022, a move that was welcomed by Transdev.

However, another potential operator to compete with SNCF, FlixMobility, confirmed its intention to postpone plans to enter the French market in April due to high access charges in the country.

There's more detail on their plans on their web site; the latest move being a formal application - the first step in a long process. Whether their date of end-2022 is feasible is open to question; obviously getting the trains will be a key factor. They are talking about leasing six Alstom Regiolis/Coradia liner (like the new Intercités ones), but reducing the maintenance cost by being a smaller more flexible organisation that SNCF.
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« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2020, 09:55:41 pm »

I can think of a few Alstom Coradias that might be going cheap soon......
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« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2020, 11:45:50 am »

Very interesting development. The Non-TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse) Intercities have become the Cinderella of the French rail network and this could be the lifeline they need.
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« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2021, 03:16:13 pm »

Railcoop has just published an update on its projects on its website

Its first aim is to launch a freight service operating out of Toulouse in mid-2021. Then it aims to restart passenger trains from Bordeaux to Lyon, with a target date of June 2022.
It says it is already in talks to buy some second-hand rolling stock for this line.

After that it wants to run two other lines: from Toulouse to Rennes in Brittany, and from Lyon to Thionville in the northeast (near the Luxembourg border).

Longer-term Railcoop wants to run long-distance sleeper trains.
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« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2021, 05:17:26 pm »

I wonder how that will look next month! There was a news item on F2 Tuesday night based on a report to be submitted to parliament in March, coupled to what the boss of SNCF (Societe Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais - French National Railways) said to a parliamentary committee in December. I've not found anything more about it - no-one else has picked it up, and I'm not sure what the report is (or even what a rapport d'état ought to be). The news is on line at francetvinfo (item starts about 3:20), and this is their summary:
Le train, le moyen de transport de l'avenir ?

Un rapport d'État concernant les moyens de transport les plus polluants devrait être présentés aux parlementaires en mars. Comment concurrencer l’avion et la voiture tout en désenclavant les territoires les plus isolés ? La solution passe peut-être par le ferroviaire.

Apres le TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse), la France pourrait aiguiller sa politique ferroviaire vers les trains interrégionaux. Selon un rapport d’État, les grandes lignes entre régions pourraient faire leur retour en force, avec par exemple la création d’une ligne entre Toulouse (Haute-Garonne) et Lyon (Rhône), en passant par Avignon (Vaucluse). "Ce serait le top, c’est sûr, témoigne un usager. Moi il m’arrive de rester en transit à la gare de Nîmes (Gard) trois heures". Faire Toulouse-Avignon en train impose pour le moment une correspondance de 23 minutes à Nîmes, pour 3h33 de voyage au total, contre 3h20 en voiture. Le rapport propose ainsi de prolonger la ligne Bordeaux-Marseille jusqu’à Nice (Alpes-Maritimes), ou de créer des axes Toulouse-Lyon, Metz-Grenoble ou Nantes-Lille.
Nouvel aménagement des territoires

De nouvelles rames coûteraient 170 millions d’euros. "C’est une nouvelle conception de l’aménagement des territoires qui prend en compte l’ensemble de ces petites villes qui structurent la ruralité et qui aujourd’hui n’ont plus que des petits TER pour aller à leur chef-lieu de département, mais plus du tout de relations interrégionales", explique Joël Giraud, secrétaire d’État chargé de la ruralité.

It's not clear whether they are literally talking about building new "classique" lines, just to avoid a 23 minute wait. Or are they just proposing new services, which is hardly such a big deal. And as to whether small towns really would get a range of inter-regional services stopping there ... well, how? Somewhere in a report about the impact of a region (Hauts-d-France in this case) taking full control over minor lines and getting another contractor than SNCF to run them, I read that better, longer, services than current TERs would be possible by stopping at fewer places. True, but of course you can't please all the people, can you?
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« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2021, 11:36:16 pm »

Railcoop's first trains have started running! This is the goods service between Toulouse and Decazeville in the Aveyron. They are using elderly wagons and as a cooperative presumably have lower labour costs (even if not actually employing volunteers). Here's a report from
A new operator entered the rail freight market in France, and with a new concept. Railcoop, a rail cooperative currently counting more than 9,000 members, just launched its first rail freight service linking the Aveyron and Lot regions with the Toulouse-St-Jory logistics hub.

The new rail freight service will cover a distance of 180 kilometres, reviving a line that has been closed by SNCF (Societe Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais - French National Railways) since 2014. Despite being inactive for so many years, the line connects two important economic centres (Decazeville and Toulouse-St-Jory), which, according to Railcoop, are essential for the French supply chain and should reconnect.

First freight, then passengers

The service runs as of Monday 15 November with three weekly roundtrips. Starting from January 2022, it will offer one roundtrip per day. The transported cargo comprises mainly agricultural and industrial products. To launch the first train service, the cooperative leased 24 wagons from Ermewa and two locomotives from DB» (Deutsche Bahn - German State Railway - about) Cargo, which will be operated by two drivers.

Railcoop is not only entering the rail freight business, but also has plans to launch passenger services. The first service, Bordeaux-Lyon, had to delayed by six months however, because the requested train paths have not been allocated by infrastructure manager SNCF Réseau. The launch date is now expected to be on 11 December 2022, instead of the planned start in June 2022.

Regional single-wagon traffic

Railcoop focuses on reviving regional rail freight links that have been disused but remain essential for the economic growth of smaller decentralised towns and communities. Its service promotes single-wagon trains that do not need to be bundled. Moreover, the cooperative’s goal is to palletise every single wagon.

“We want to create a shuttle that will load small volumes on demand by repackaging as it was forty years ago, without having to order entire wagons”, explained to the french media Dominique Guerrée, volunteer president of Railcoop. As for the customers, Guerrée accepts the fact that they are not easy to attract. However, the cooperative has some agreements in place, and if everything goes by plan, it could launch more services.

The first passenger route, Bordeaux-Lyon, wasn't approved by SNCF Réseau for next June, but paths have now been found for it to still start before the end of the year. Railcoop only started a couple of years ago, so to start operating so soon suggests that the French reputation for opaque bureaucracy and protecting state businesses isn't justified now.

Could the same thing be done here? Go-op suggests not. But they may not be picking the right thing to do, or not be any good at doing it; it's hard to make a realistic comparison. Orion has been as quick, but that's a commercial operation, and in a non-competing line of business. And we don't know if it will succeed.
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