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Saturday 24 September 2022
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German train firm bids for new routes in France

A private German firm has put in a bid to run a rail service between Paris and Bordeaux using underused track that was bypassed by a new TGV line.

If approved, it will be one of just a few times since the formation of the SNCF in 1938 that a private company has launched a rail service in France.

Munich-based FlixTrain, part of the company behind FlixBus international and national bus routes, has also submitted plans for three other routes.

The French regulator Arafer  has 18 months to respond and, if it approves the plans, services could start in 2021.

Under EU rules, member states must open up their transport networks, including railways, to private companies, which also means those from other countries.

France is one of the last of the EU countries to put into place methods for this to happen. 

FlixTrain, founded in 2013, operates in countries across the world, including the US.

It plans to run four trains a day between Paris Austerlitz and Bordeaux’s main Saint Jean station.

They will be pulled by French-made BB36000 locomotives, able to run up to 200kph where the track can take it, and carry up to 1,000 passengers. It did not say whether it will hire locomotives from SNCF or buy them.

It is a legal requirement that drivers have French as a first language in France.

Stops are planned for Orléans, Blois, Saint-Pierre-des-Corps near Tours, and Angoulême.

The journey will take around four hours 45 minutes, more than double the fastest time on SNCF’s TGV trains.

Other routes the company has submitted plans for include Saint-Quentin to Paris, Lyon Perrache station to Paris Bercy, and an overnight service from Nice to Paris Bercy.

A FlixTrain spokeswoman told Connexion: “We are convinced demand is high for these routes.

“Increasing the service will allow passengers more options for rail travel.

“By submitting bids quickly, we have shown our ambitions to offer the most affordable and convenient means of transport to French customers.”

 The company said it hoped to run the trains on electricity only from renewable sources.

It will either buy new passenger carriages or refit them, and equip them to French standards of comfort and quality, which are different from German expectations.

Like on the buses it runs, there will be free wi-fi, charging points, a snack service and entertainment on board. The firm is also looking at fitting bike racks.

Prices have not been decided but in Germany the company offers inter-city train travel at €9.99 for tickets booked in advance online.

Another company, Trenitalia, has also put in a bid to run a service – a TGV route between Paris and Lyon.

The old line between Tours and Bordeaux has been largely underused since the TGV line was commissioned in 2017.

The only regular trains currently using the line are TER regional trains, running mainly between Angoulême and Bordeaux six times a day.  

Plans announced by SNCF for it to be used to increase capacity for freight trains have failed because the price of rail freight is higher than going by road.  

Similarly, projects to allow lorries to drive on to railway wagons and relieve the N10 road, which has 11,000 heavy lorries on it a day between Bordeaux and Angoulême, have failed because the tunnels and bridges are too small.

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