The German company FlixTrain has made bids for five routes which have been made public by French rail regulator Arafer.
If they get the go-ahead, the company will operate trains on the following routes: Paris-Lyon, Paris-Toulouse, a night train from Paris-Nice, Paris-Bordeaux and Paris-Brussels, according to the documents published by Arafer.
This would all take place as part of the plan to open up France's major commercial passenger transport lines to outside competition, which is set to happen by the end of 2020 – a move which has proved controversial among rail unions.
FlixTrain, a subsidiary of the FlixMobility group, is the only company to have applied for these five lines while earlier in the year SNCF Réseaux had indicated at that two parties were intending to file for them.
“We are not on a TGV model, but rather an offer equivalent to France's Intercités trains, with more affordable prices,” Yvan Lefranc-Morin, Managing Director France of FlixBus, told AFP. “Using our 'data', we know that there is a strong demand for cheap offers on these lines.”
FlixTrain, which has been operating in Germany since April 2018, will focus on network planning and ticket sales, and intends to work with partners who will own and circulate the trains.
Before approval can go ahead, European regulation gives the regional authorities a period of one month to ask Arafer for a “test of economic equilibrium “if they think that these new services compromise the viability of an existing public service, in particular the TER (regional trains).
Under the controversial rail reforms, introduced in June 2018, France's national rail operator SNCF is officially protected from privatisation while its subsidiaries, which includes SNCF Mobilités (responsible for managing the trains) and SNCF Réseaux (which manages the infrastructure) is not.