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TRAINS

Germany’s Siemens and France’s Alstom couple train units

The maker of France's iconic TGV trains Alstom and German industrial leader Siemens signed on Friday an agreement on creating a global leader in the rail industry.

Germany’s Siemens and France’s Alstom couple train units
A TGV train at Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris in February 2018. Photo: AFP

The Business Combination Agreement (BCA) sets the terms of combining Alstom with Siemens' mobility business, including its rail traction drive business, after the two firms unveiled their plans last year.

“With the signing of the BCA, we have reached an important milestone on the way to building a new leader capable of tackling the challenges of tomorrow's mobility,” said Henri Poupart-Lafarge, the chief executive of Alstom who will be the CEO of the new company, in a statement.

Roland Busch, a member of the management board of Siemens, is to serve as chairman of the board of directors of the combined entity, which is to be based in France.

Siemens will control 50 percent of Alstom immediately but will be blocked from taking a bigger than 50.5 percent stake for the four coming years.

Alstom trade unions objected to the merger, fearing job cuts and closures.

An Alstom-Siemens merger has been mooted for years and completes the transformation of the French group which sold off its energy business to American rival General Electric in 2015 for 9.5 billion euros.

The merger will create the world's top firm for rail signalisation and the number two for building train carriages, which should help the firms face rising Chinese competition.

The merger is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Alstom employs 32,800 people worldwide while Siemens Mobility has 28,800 staff.

READ ALSO: France's Alstom inks €75 million supply deal with India metro firms

TRAINS

SNCF set to lose bid for regional French railway line for first time ever

The French state-funded rail operator SNCF is set to lose a regional rail service for the first time as officials in southeast France vote to award a 10-year contract to a rival operator.

SNCF set to lose bid for regional French railway line for first time ever
Photo by Bertrand Langlois / AFP

Officials in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur appear set to award the regional rail service between Marseille and Nice to the Transdev transport group for 10 years when the tender goes to its final vote on October 29th.

If the vote goes as planned, it will be the first internal regional rail service in France that will not be operated by SNCF. 

“SNCF Voyageurs [which includes TGV, TER, Intercités and Transilien] wishes Transdev every success, in the interest of passengers and the development of rail transport in the region,” SNCF said in a press release, acknowledging the impending loss of the contract.

“This choice marks (…) the concretisation of the opening to competition for which we have been preparing for a long time, where our organising authorities have the freedom to choose other operators than us,” Christophe Fanichet, CEO of SNCF Voyageurs, said in the statement.

Three companies were in the running for the €870 million 10-year deal: SNCF, private French transport group Transdev, and Thello, a subsidiary of the Italian public railway company Trenitalia.

Transdev – which already operates successful bus, coach and rail operations – has promised that regional rail traffic on the Marseille-Nice line will double from seven daily services to 14 by 2025.

While the symbolic loss of its first regional rail service will hurt SNCF, it can console itself with reports that it looks set to retain other lines in the region, including links between Les Arcs-Draguignan and Ventimiglia (Italy), as well as Nice-Tende and Cannes-Grasse. The 10-year deal for those services – for which it was the only bidder – is worth €1.5 billion.

Elected officials in the Grand-Est, Hauts-de-France, Ile-de-France and Pays de la Loire are taking a keen interest in the tender process in PACA, having already announced that they would consider opening up bids for TER services to rival operators.

TER routes are France’s local trains, running slower services to small towns, in contrast to the high-speed TGV network which links up the cities.

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about taking the train in France

“It’s historic in the railway world, it’s the first time that a line of this importance will be granted to another operator than the SNCF,” Alpes-Maritimes senator Philippe Tabarot, and former vice-president in charge of transport in the PACA region, told AFP.

Unsurprisingly, not everyone is as excited at the prospect. “We are not surprised, because it shows the willingness of the region to create competition in the most profitable markets,” said Jean-Marie Valencia, head of communications for rail union CGT-Cheminots PACA. “We are concerned, because it will not be without cost to the railway workers.”

Didier Mathis, secretary general of union UNSA-Ferroviaire, added: “We are saddened by this decision, because it will lead to the transfer of 166 agents [from SNCF to Transdev]. 

“This decision is not at all a surprise, because the Southern Region would have been embarrassed if it had chosen SNCF twice in the two tenders, even though it said it was dissatisfied with SNCF. The region would have lost all credibility.” 

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