2021 is the European Year of Rail. Further details can be found here.

So perhaps it’s fitting that two former SNCF executives want to launch France’s first open access operator in December 2022, according to a report by IRJ (registration required).

The idea behind open access is to offer rail travellers another option which hopefully would encourage more passengers on to the network.

UK rail hosts a couple of open access operators (like Grand Central and Hull Trains). But in France open access rail is non existent.

SNCF (France’s national operator) holds a monopoly and therefore wisely this new “Le Train” rail company will serve regional routes only. Paris will not be included on Le Train’s network… initially at least.

IRJ reports that Le Train intends to operate along the Bordeaux-Anglouleme-Poitiers-La Rochelle corridor. Some services would use the high-speed line between Bordeaux and Poitiers.

Hence Le Train is seeking to acquire TGVs from SNCF. These would seat 350 passengers and Le Train wants a fleet of ten trainsets.

And this is where the problem arises. Only SNCF owns domestic TGVs and so far it has not sold redundant stock to other operators.

This fact is noted by EU transport expert Jon Worth whose tweet above shows one of Eurostar’s original Alstom trains is the process of being dismantled. SNCF is a majority shareholder in Eurostar.

The EU seeks to encourage rail competition in national markets but new entrants can face difficulties in acquiring rolling stock.

Hence Jon Worth suggests the EU “should place a blanket ban on trains being scrapped”.

Readers may recall our piece from 2018 concerning Eurostar ‘light.’

Eurostar ‘light’ option feasible for London-Paris

Nothing came of this idea and indeed nothing further could happen unless Eurostar were to sell some of its older Alstom sets to another firm.

We shall keep you updated on developments at Le Train.