3 takeaways from VRT Conference – Paris September 2021

September 20, 2021

It was great to attend the Ville Rails & Transport (VRT) conference in sunny Paris last Thursday. This conference hosted in Espace St Martin covered a debate discussing the new entrants to French railway and followed by an awards ceremony rewarding transport best practice in the past year.

This was very much test of my B1 level French, but I was gratified to understand most of the information. My three key takeaways.

  1. TER is the name for the regional express services operated by the regional governments. All TER services are currently run by SNCF. However, there is an ongoing programme to advertise these routes via tendering or direct award to SNCF (current incumbent). This programme is at an early stage, so it was interesting to hear the latest news regarding the first award by the Paca Sud region. The first TER service not run by SNCF will be Marseille – Cannes – Nice limited-stop TER service and awarded to Transdev. The announcement will be ratified at a vote on 29th October 2021, but the vote is expected to be a mere formality. At the conference, Transdev promised to double the frequency, increase the quality of service and reduce the cost for the local communities from 2025 onwards. There is a lot to do in approximately 3 years of mobilisation.
  2. The regional awards highlighted the innovation displayed by regional governments during the pandemic. I particularly like the Teletravail pass (again introduced by Paca Sud) region which allowed customers to buy 20 to 30 tickets between their home and place of work at a discounted rate of either 60% or 70%. Launched in August 2020, the speed of this initiative is exemplary and in stark contrast to the UK.
  3. Another award winner I was impressed with was the cycle rail carriages funded by Pays de La Loire and Centre Val de Loire regions. During the summer months cyclists cycling the dedicated 800km Loire a Velo can reserve their bike for free on board. The trains running between Orléans, Blois, Amboise, Tours, Chinon, Saumur, Angers and Nantes can carry 33 bikes on board known as Jumbo Velo carriages.
VRT Conference and Awards Ceremony along with sponsors

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