The opening to the competition TER is precise, but the TER will not circulate before 2022

Illustration of a TER at Saint-Charles station in Marseille. – Patrick Valasseris

  • Renaud Muselier, president of the Paca region, has launched a European tendering procedure for the competition of TERs.
  • The tender with the specifications will be launched in a year, while the first TER open to competition will not circulate before 2022.
  • A dozen operators would be interested, including the SNCF.
  • The objective is to offer a better quality of service to users, while not increasing prices.

This is a new step towards the possible privatization of TER in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region. The President of the Region,
Renaud Muselier, announced Tuesday at a press conference the commitment of a European tender procedure for the competition of
TER. A political will that dates from 2016, but which will not be on track before 2022, at best.

Why open the TER to the competition? "Only 80% of trains in our region arrive on time, and 10% are canceled when 97% of trains arrive on time in the East and only 1% are canceled. We are the worst network in France while we pay the most expensive envelope, "explained Renaud Muselier.
He wants to open the TER to competition to improve the offer for users. "The goal is to compare, clarify the situation at the service of the user and the taxpayer while having trains on time," he said. The more global goal of the president of the region is to make the train "a credible alternative to the car, for everyday journeys as for tourists".

Which lines are concerned? The region has selected two lots for this call for competition.

  • The Marseille-Toulon-Nice line represents the maximum potential, with 17 daily trains carrying around 7,500 users. Only 30% of the connections arrive on time. "We therefore hope that the opening to competition will allow more frequency, with new trains and better punctuality," explained the president.
  • "Riviera" services include the Cannes-Grasse, Les Arcs-Draguignan-Ventimiglia, Cannes-Nice-Monaco-Ventimiglia and Nice-Tende lines. They represent 50,000 daily users, which is half of the region's TER traffic. It is also a showcase for the image of the Region, since they carry many tourists. Another argument, and not least, the operator who wins this lot will have to make new maintenance facilities in Nice Saint-Roch, equipment deemed "essential".

What's the calendar ? The region on Tuesday launched the European tender procedure which provides for a year's notice so that operators who may be interested can prepare their offer. It is therefore only in February 2020 that the call for tenders, with the precise specifications, will then be launched. The agreement with the selected operator will then be signed in the spring of 2021 for both lots. But the putting in circulation of the TER will not be effective until March 2022 for the line Marseille-Toulon-Nice, and not before 2024 for the services azureens.

Which operators are interested? The region had launched a call for expressions of interest, to which a dozen operators responded, French (Transdev, RATP Dev, a subsidiary of the RATP) or European (Thello, the French subsidiary of Trenitalia). SNCF, with whom the region signed a new agreement last January, is also on the line. "We did not have any expressions of interest from the SCNF and we wondered why. The social context of last year did not allow them to position themselves. But it's the incumbent, who knows the network better, and I know now that they do not want to lose. So they will make efforts, "detailed Renaud Muselier.

What changes for users? The big question is whether ticket prices and subscriptions will go up. Renaud Muselier remained rather evasive on the question even if he explained that the price factor would be included in the specifications of the calls for tenders. "Our priority is not to increase the price of subscriptions," he said. For the region, the goal is not to save money, but that the service offered to users is of better quality, especially in the improvement of rolling stock. Renaud Muselier promised that no station or line would be removed.

The opening to competition other lines should follow in Paca, including Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, but also to Gap. At the national level, the regions will have to choose from 2023 if they sign an agreement with the SNCF, or with another operator.