Renaud Muselier, president of the PACA region, has launched a European request for proposals in competition with the TER system. During a press conference, he detailed the likely schedule for the opening of regional lines to new operators. The main question: will the overall quality of service be improved?
The quality of service and problems with punctuality appear to occupy Renaud Muselier’s day-to-day considerations when it comes to the ability to offer consistent TER rail options to travelers. This week, during a press point, he particularly regretted that the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region is one of the worst students in France in these domains. One in five trains are is late and one trip out of ten is canceled: the numbers are overwhelming, especially considering that the region is relatively expensive for users. This compounds the issue, as rail journeys are not yet monetarily attractive enough compared to the daily car rides.
Competition, a cure-all?
Concretely, European law now allows private companies other than SNCF to operate regional TER rail lines. Two lines will, therefore, be the subjects of a request for proposals: one concerns the operation of the Marseille-Toulon-Ligne line, the other relates to the Cannes-Grasse, Cannes-Nice-Monaco-Ventimiglia routes, Nice-Tende, and Les Arcs-Draguignan-Ventimiglia. The request for proposals has a date set in 2020 in order to give proper notice in order for candidates to organize their proffers. Should they win this rail competition, Transdev, Thello, Ratp Dev, and other railway actors will be able to start operating trains along the same lines that were managed uniquely by SNCF (which will also be a candidate) starting in 2022.
For Renaud Muselier, this turn toward competition is an opportunity to truly challenge the rail services in the region and improve them drastically. The President of the Regional Council wants the situation to improve for users, tourists, and taxpayers. The ultimate goal is for the quality of service to improve without price or tax increases. Time will tell if this competition will make things better or worse.
*Article originally published on the French edition of the Monaco Tribune.