FRENCH cooperative Railcoop has announced that it will start operating between Bordeaux and Lyon in June 2024, making it the first new entrant in the conventional domestic passenger market that is currently the preserve of French National Railways (SNCF).

Railcoop first planned to launch passenger services on the Bordeaux - Lyon route on June 26 2022. The start of operations has been delayed several times due to difficulties in obtaining funding and securing rolling stock.

Shareholders meeting at the Railcoop AGM on February 22 voted by 86.39% in favour of a motion from the board to launch a limited service in 2024.

Railcoop had planned to run two return services a day between Bordeaux and Lyon, but now says there will be three return services a week and one single journey.

The launch service will be much simpler than originally envisaged, Railcoop says, but should satisfy the greatest number of passengers. The first services are being planned in consultation with the cooperative’s shareholders, which include around 30 local authorities along the Bordeaux - Lyon route.

Tickets will initially be sold onboard the trains and by Railcoop partners.

Railcoop has purchased nine class X 72500 DMUs from SNCF, and a minor refurbishment programme will be undertaken this year by ACC M of Clermont-Ferrand. Refurbishment was to have included the provision of a quiet area for business travellers and a family compartment.

As they await support from banks and institutional investors, Railcoop’s shareholders have decided to fund the launch of passenger services from the cooperative’s own resources.

Railcoop is currently offering shares for sale on its website, and is also raising funds in the form of equity securities aimed at members and non-members.

It will need to raise an additional €4.1m this year to fund the launch of passenger services in 2024, including the purchase of an additional three-car class X 72500 DMU.

Meanwhile, Railcoop says that it will soon expand its freight operations with an additional service to Gignac in southwestern France.

Railcoop has been operating freight trains carrying timber from Capdenac to Saint Gaudens via Toulouse Saint Jory since May 2022, now operating once a week.

  • An interview with Railcoop chief operating officer, Ms Alexandra Debaisieux, appeared in the June 2022 edition of IRJ.