Bids are invited by March 31 to operate the Marseille - Toulon - Nice TER service and the Azur network in the Nice area, together representing 33% of TER services in the region. Both are operated by French National Railways (SNCF) which currently has a monopoly of passenger rail services in France apart from a handful of cross-border long-distance services.

The Marseille - Toulon - Nice concession has an estimated value of €870m and the regional government hopes to award the contract in summer 2021 with the new operator taking over the service in summer 2025. The winner will be required to procure its own trains and build a maintenance depot in Nice.

The €1.5bn Azur concession comprises three services: Les Arcs-Draguignan - Nice - Ventimiglia, Italy; Nice - Breil-sur-Roya - Tende (on the Italian border); and the Cannes - Grasse branch. This contract will also be awarded in summer 2021 but will take effect in December 2024. The new operator will be allocated trains and depot facilities.

The regional government says it expects operating costs to be lower with the new concessions, while the Azure concession calls for higher train frequencies.

Two more regions - Grand Est and Hauts-de-France - are expected to launch their first TER concession tenders soon, followed by Pays de la Loire. Ile-de-France Mobility is requesting the French government to bring forward the timetable to introduce competitive tendering for rail services in the Paris area.

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