Over term of the new contract, which has a retrospective start date of January 1 2017, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes will spend €543m a year on the provision of regional train services.

However, the regional government and SNCF are hailing the new contract as a radical departure from previous contracts with “a responsible relationship between the organising authority and operator.” The regional government has set the quality objectives it expects from SNCF Mobility, which has been granted the management autonomy to achieve these goals.

SNCF says the contract is the first to fully address the objectives of SNCF’s capTER 2020 plan, which seeks to cut costs for regional authorities and boost ridership on TER services by 5-10% by 2020 by harnessing best practice from individual regions and applying it on a national scale.

“There will be penalties for delays and these will be multiplied fivefold for cancellations,” says Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes regional president Mr Laurent Wauquiez.

If it fails to meet contractual performance targets on the region’s two busiest TER routes, Lyon - Grenoble/Chambéry and Lyon - St Etienne, SNCF will incur a €1.2m penalty. Conversely, it will receive a €1.2m bonus if performance exceeds expectations.

SNCF says the six-year contract makes provision for future competition on selected TER routes and also incorporates a multi-year investment plan. This will include a focus on digitalisation with the aim of making travel simpler and improving links between modes. Passenger Wi-Fi will also be trialled in the region next year.