Railcoop postpones its first passenger train again, facing barriers

The new operator Railcoop has postponed the launch of its Bordeaux – Lyon passenger service for the second time. The launch of Railcoop’s first passenger line was scheduled for December 11, 2022, but has been postponed as the co-op says it faces continuing obstacles as a new rail company in co-operative form.

The December 2022 launch date was set after an initial six-month delay, but with the remaining hurdles, that launch date will also not be reached.

The reasons for postponing the first passenger service are twofold. First of all, the finalization of the financial package remains conditional on the firm and definitive commitment of banks, institutional investors and actors of the Social and Solidarity Economy (ESS).

Railcoop now says it is aware of the fact that financial and banking players are reluctant to get involved, “including players who claim to support the emergence of new economic models and the development of rural territories, in the face of a promising but emerging situation” . market.” Second, the availability of rolling stock depends on the industry’s ability to refurbish available second-hand trains within a reasonable time frame.

License and security certificate in hand

Railcoop has already achieved several milestones, including obtaining a railway undertaking license and a single safety certificate in autumn 2021 and the launch of a free service in November 2021. The first freight service of Railcoop was created last year.

A new concept on the rail market, the railway cooperative society has raised nearly 7 million euros in equity from 12,000 individual members, 200 companies and associations and 30 local authorities. According to Railcoop, the difficulty for banking players to bear the risk of traffic on a rail service which is not operated at a high level shows the need to support the opening of the market more adequately. “In particular by setting up public guarantee mechanisms to facilitate access to credit.

Rolling stock difficulties

After several months of negotiations, Railcoop has signed the contract for the sale of SNCF Voyageurs X72500 trains. These trains were previously used by the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region for TER services. They are thermal railcars and can therefore run on non-electrified lines such as those between Bordeaux and Lyon. The interior layout of the trains will be completely reviewed, so that it corresponds to a long-distance service.

However, they will not be available by the end of 2022, as originally planned. This emerges from discussions with the manufacturers pre-selected for the renovation of these trains. At the same time, Railcoop is working on other avenues for acquiring new equipment. Discussions are underway with Alstom, Siemens, Stadler and Titagarh Firema, it is specified on the Railcoop site.

The operator is continuing to develop its Bordeaux-Lyon service, and says it has a good relationship with its various partners, such as the infrastructure manager SNCF Réseaux for train paths, stations and SNCF connections for the development of station areas and with Isara for on-board catering and development of ticketing tools.

New launch date uncertain

The launch date of the Bordeaux-Lyon link is now conditional on two elements, and therefore still uncertain. The finalization of the financing plan is the first, which determines the date of entry into the workshop for the renovation of the entire fleet necessary for the launch of the service.

Second, the exact date of delivery of the renovated trains. Railcoop affirms that its commitment to its members and its territories remains unchanged: “rail will once again occupy a central place in mobility and territorial development in France”.

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Jose P. Rogers