The offer had not found a new taker the last time. The Ministry of Ecological Transition in charge of transport announced on Friday, September 16, relaunch competition for Intercités lines Nantes-Lyon and Nantes-Bordeaux, which the State had interrupted at the end of 2020 for lack of a competitor against the SNCF, which had the only company to apply.
“Due to the health crisis, the competitive bidding procedure for the award of the operating contract for these two lines could not be completed”, is it explained in a press release. Once interested, the operators Arriva (Deutsche Bahn group), EuroRail and Transdev had notably decided not to present an offer. The government then referred to the “economic difficulties encountered by railway players following the health crisis” and “the absence of a reliable prospect of traffic recovery”two factors preventing, according to him, “fair and equitable competition”susceptible to "guarantee the best service to the user at the best price".
Start of new line operation in 2027
For this new competition, "the start of operations by the new contract holder is planned for 2027"once designated the winner of the call for tenders which will also possibly concern a new Nantes-Lille line, said the ministry.
The new version of the call for tenders provides, this time, "that the candidates propose an optional offer for the development of a link between Nantes and Lille" which would pass through Angers, Le Mans, Caen, Rouen and Amiens, he added. This new line would be launched or not "depending on the result of the offers received".
The Intercités, officially called “territorial balance trains” (TET), are subsidized by the State, which has announced its intention to develop their network. They must be operated by the SNCF until 2031, but the agreement signed in March by the company provides that part of the lines are, by then, gradually opened up to competition.
At the same time, several regions have already begun to open up their TER trains to competition, organised, as for the Intercités, by the 2018 railway law. The Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region has already awarded two “batches” after issuing calls for tenders, Paris-Toulon-Nice to Transdev and the "star of Nice" to the SNCF. Procedures are also underway in the Grand Est, Hauts-de-France, Ile-de-France, Pays-de-la-Loire and Bourgogne-France-Comté regions.