"We fear that over half of the TET services will be lost and routes will be transferred to the regions," Mr Jacques Auxiette, president of Pays de la Loire and the ARF commission for infrastructure and transport said at a press conference held by the two associations on May 20.

At the end of last year the government formed a commission of politicians and industry experts, chaired by member of parliament for Calvados Mr Philippe Duron to develop proposals for the future development of the network. The commission is due to present its initial report in the next few days.

The two associations say they are concerned that the state and French National Railways (SNCF) view the TET services in purely financial terms and warn that this could lead to the loss of vital social and economic links between regional towns and cities. Losses from the TET network are forecast to reach €400m by next year.

"The existence and survival of the TET trains is extremely important to our towns and cities, and helps to prevent economic decline in the regions," says Mrs Caroline Cayeux, mayor of Beauvais and president of the Federation of French Towns.

The associations are urging the government to bring forward the concesssioning of public service obligation inter-regional services to enable private operators to enter the market. Currently the government has no plans to implement this before 2019.

Auxiette says regional governments are willing to consider the transfer of some routes to the regions, "subject to adequate financial compensation" from the state.