RATP will hold a 55% stake in the new company while45% will be held by Getlink, the Channel Tunnel maintenance provider and shuttle service operator as well as a freight operator in France and Britain. RATP’s international subsidiary RATP Dev will also be a signatory to the partnership.

The companies say the alliance provides the whole spectrum of skills required to respond to regional railway tenders. The partnership is also based on the groups’ complementary activities in the Haut-de-France and Grand Est regions, which will be the initial targets for contracts for the joint venture.

“[We are] convinced that combining our multiple high-level expertise across the entire value chain will make our future offer relevant to the French regions,” says Ms Catherine Guillouard, president and CEO of RATP Group.

Grand-Est published a prior information notice in the Official Journal of the European Union in April for three lines. The contracts will commence in March 2022 and will run for 8-15 years.

Hauts-de-France plans to launch the first tenders to operate TER services in April 2020 and to select the preferred bidders in October 2021. The first services operated under the new contracts would commence at the December 2022 timetable change.

France’s Court of Auditors released a report last month stating that only three regions - Hauts-de-France, Grand-Est and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur - were ready to put lines out to competitive tender.