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France: Progress Report on Long-Distance Passenger Service Upgrade

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

The French Secretary of State for Transport, Sea and Fisheries, Alain Vidal, delivered his progress report on the status of the Government’s roadmap for France’s long-distance passenger services.

The roadmap hinges on the renewal of the current fleet Trains d’Equilibre du Territoire (TET). Ridership on the current fleet has declined by 20% since 2011, rendering the lines financially unsustainable. In 2016, the deficit is likely to exceed €400million. A defining factor contributing to this decline is the comfort and reliability of the old fleet, which a €1.5billion investment is hoped to address.

The roadmap was originally announced in July 2015, a key part of which is the renewal of the TET fleet. It is expected that a final decision will be made by July 2016 in order to meet the expectations of passengers. The current TET fleet in operation is no longer fit for purpose, and therefore will be completely renewed by 2025. The programme will be split into three geographical areas to address infrastructure issues as well as renewing the rolling stock.

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SNCF has put the renewal of the fleet out to tender, with the first of the new fleet to be delivered by 2020. 34 new trains have already been ordered from Alstom under a contract worth €510million, which will be in operation from 2018. Features of the new fleet include modern standards of safety, comfort and reliability, as well as on board wi-fi and internet at stations.

The TET night service was singled out as particularly problematic, having seen a decline in ridership by 25% since 2011. This service alone represents 25% of the TET deficit despite carrying only 3% of all TET passengers. Many night services will be cut accordingly and other services will be adjusted to make them financially viable. A call for Expressions of Interest will be launched in July 2016 to explore the avenues to improve the surviving lines.

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These actions are being taken as other initiatives are being put into place to improve the passenger experience, addressing cleanliness, maintenance and collecting customer feedback in order to improve services.

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