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Improving local rail services in France important, says consumer group

UFC-Que Choisir wants candidates in upcoming regional elections to commit to 10 demands for TER trains in their region

Candidates in this month's regional elections in France are urged to commit to implement a 10-step 'new deal' plan for TER rail services in their region.

UFC Que Choisir, backed by the Fédération Nationale des Associations d'Usagers des Transports (FNAUT) and the Fédération française des Usagers de la Bicyclette (FUB) has called on candidates to promise to improve local rail services after its own study found they had suffered in recent years.

Read more: Voters in France to elect new councillors in regions and departments

"After a golden decade (2002-2012), in which the renewal of rolling stock and an increase in frequency led to a leap in passengers (+55%), numbers have has stagnated since then," the UFC-Que Choisir report said.

"While there are necessarily multiple causes (changes in fuel prices, strikes, the development of carpooling and low-cost coach services), shortcomings in terms of service quality appear to be a major explanation." 

It found that, in 2019, nearly 10% of TER services did not run - and, 10% of those that did operate as scheduled ran late. 



"In total, the real reliability rate of French TERs in 2019 was only 81.3%, which means that a daily rail commuter will suffer on average two delays or cancellations per week." 

The associations said that they were “not surprised' at the report’s findings, because, "[railway operator] SNCF is subject to few constraints from the regional councils. 

"While it is essential that delays and cancellations 'cost' the company, the penalties for disruptions are less than 1% of the subsidy received each year by the SNCF at national level.

Read more: Intercity train services to increase with end of travel ban in France

They propose a 'new deal' to more closely align TER rail services with cycling in order to "increase passenger numbers by 50% by 2030" and reduce reliance on cars

"This is a perfectly realistic objective," said UFC-Que Choisir, "which would save one million tonnes of CO2 per year".

The aim is to "finally improve the reliability of TERs" by improving punctuality rates to "facilitate, at all levels, intermodality between bicycles and regional trains [and] to allow ecological journeys from start to finish" by equipping all stations with bicycle parking facilities.

Finally, the associations would like to "improve the practical link between regional and mainline trains", and "involve users' representatives in structural decisions on transport, to ensure that their expectations are properly taken into account".

Read more: Paris-Nice night train restarts with PM onboard for first trip

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