FRANCE’s rail regulator ART has ended the infringement procedure that it brought against the passenger business of French National Railways (SNCF) for failing to provide the Hauts-de-France region with the information that it required for the competitive tendering of passenger services that SNCF has operated under contract.
ART says that it will ensure that SNCF Voyageurs draws all the lessons from this case so as not to unduly delay competitive tendering by regions such as Hauts-de-France.
Hauts-de-France had lodged a complaint with ART on April 13 2021, saying that SNCF Voyageurs had not complied with ART’s decision of July 30 2020 requiring the national operator to provide the region with information on the organisation and operation of TER regional passenger services.
On January 4 2022, ART then directed SNCF Voyageurs to provide Hauts-de-France with information on 66 specific points, including details of rolling stock, fleet maintenance and human resources, as well as justification for the level of SNCF charges to the region.
ART says that SNCF Voyageurs has now provided Hauts-de-France with the requested information within the deadline for compliance set by the regulator.
The regulator says that the provision of data on the organisation and performance of a PSO contract is a prerequisite for the success of the first competitive award processes for these services.
It is also essential to enable the transport authorities to monitor more effectively the performance of the rail services that they fund.
ART notes that the information requested by Hauts-de-France was actually provided almost three years after the region's initial request and almost two years after the regulator’s decision of June 2020.
The legal framework for the provision of information to transport authorities was clarified by a ruling of the Paris Court of Appeal on June 23 2022, which determined that SNCF Voyageurs must provide all information relating to the organisation or operation of subsidised services, and not only the information required to put these services out to tender.
ART says that it is now up to SNCF Voyageurs to draw the lessons from this case in order to no longer unduly delay competitive tendering by providing each of the French regions “with reliable, complete and easily usable information, regardless of the region concerned and the geographical area covered by the request.”
“The ART will keep a particularly watchful eye on SNCF Voyageurs’ compliance with its obligations in this regard,” the regulator says.