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Marseille-Nice becomes first French TER line to leave SNCF control

From 2025 the route is to be operated by private company Transdev, which promises to double the number of trains on offer each day and improve punctuality 

The Marseille-Toulon-Nice line will from 2025 be operated by private company Transdev Pic: Alexandre Rotenberg / Shutterstock

Representatives of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region have approved the transfer of the Marseille-Toulon-Nice TER line into the control of the private company Transdev. 

The decision – confirmed yesterday (October 28) – marks the first time that a route tender has been handed to a private firm rather than an operator within the SNCF network. 

Transdev will take charge of the route in 2025 for a period of 10 years, in a contract estimated at €870million. 

“This is an historic moment and a first for France,” said the President of Paca’s Regional Council, Renaud Muselier. 

During a plenary session, the majority of the region’s elected officials voted in favour of the move, which has been on the table since September 7. 

Read more: SNCF in ‘historic’ loss of Marseille-Nice route to private competitor

Thello, a subsidiary of Trenitalia, had also been in the running for the contract. 

The Marseille-Nice TER line represents 10% of regional train traffic in terms of the number of services offered. By transferring it to a private operator, PACA becomes the first region to put an end to SNCF’s rail travel monopoly. 

This will lead to improvements to the services provided, according to Mr Muselier, who said that “92%” of trains will be on time by 2025, while only 2% will end up being cancelled. 

This is compared to 20% of trains being delayed and 10% cancelled in 2016 (according to the latest figures available). 

PACA’s Regional Council also says that “traffic will be doubled” under Transdev’s control, with the number of return trains moving from seven to 14, for “an equivalent cost.”

Transdev has also promised to build new rail infrastructure, with a maintenance centre in Nice and new trains. 

The employment of staff who spend at least 50% of their time working on this line will automatically move over to Transdev, while other SNCF workers will have the opportunity to choose between the two companies. 

During the Regional Council vote, SNCF retained the contracts for Arcs-Draguignan-Ventimiglia, Nice-Tende and Cannes-Grasse, which amount to €1.5billion and 23% of regional traffic.

These routes are also set to increase the number of return journeys, from 69 daily now, to 120 over the next decade, the region has also said.

From December 2023, EU law will require all regions to open their rail networks up to competition. 

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