It’s a small revolution in the French rail landscape. The Railcoop company obtained in December the right to operate six railway lines, including four passing through Brittany. They must connect Rennes to Toulouse, but also to Lille via Normandy, with two round trips per day each time. No question of competing with the SNCF, however. The price aims to align with those of carpooling to attract motorists. In return, allow more than nine hours to cover the entire Nantes-Lille route. Entry into the station planned from 2024… If all goes well.
Because several stones have slipped under the wheels of the Railcoop locomotive, driven by Nicolas Debaisieux and his sister Alexandra. The company is struggling to attract train drivers, which will probably force it to revise its salaries upwards. For lack of personnel, a first freight train launched at the end of November between Aveyron and Toulouse has already experienced a delay in ignition. The opening of the Bordeaux-Lyon passenger line, considered a real crash-test for the viability of the company, has meanwhile been postponed from June to December 2022. After which Railcoop plans to launch its other lines gradually from 2024. Unable to achieve everything at the same time, she plans a ten-year schedule. Rennes-Toulouse may therefore have to wait until 2034.
In Brittany, impossible to buy old TER
“Before being able to circular, you have to obtain slots on the network managed by the SNCF”, explains Quentin Neurohr, member of the board of directors of Railcoop. You also have to have the right trains. Railcoop plans to buy old TER trains from SNCF. This requires the prior agreement of the Regions. For the time being, Rhône-Alpes has already sold him diesel equipment which had been stored in the garage. But such a transaction cannot take place with Brittany, which uses all its equipment for the TER. In any case, the the leaders hope to invest in new equipment by 2025, with Alstom or Siemens.
Railcoop has retained reasons to prosper. Created in 2019, the rail challenger collected 4 million euros from its 11,000 members. Far beyond the expectations of the founders. This SCIC benefits from an undeniable advantage: everyone can become a member by paying the participation of their choice. Railcoop also promises not to ask for public subsidies. In fact, it has opened up its capital to local authorities – even if rail does not come under their jurisdiction. Neither Rennes Métropole nor the Department have been approached. The Brittany Region, it observes the initiative with caution: “We can think that several links imagined by Railcoop will be experimental, while waiting to verify that the tariff revenues with the production costs”.