Alstom has just announced Thursday, February 4, 2021 its decision to withdraw Bombardier Transport’s offer for the delivery of 146 new trains intended to replace the old RER B trains in 2025. This new twist raises the risk of significant delays in the replacement of aging rolling stock, and reinforces the concerns of RER B users. The commissioning of the CDG Express by 2025 will, for its part, make it possible to modernize the line. A breath of fresh air for traffic in the North of Paris, more necessary than ever after Alstom’s decision.
A decision with serious consequences for RER B users
146 new trains to replace the aging equipment on line B of the RER, for an amount of 2.56 billion euros: this was the offer proposed by Bombardier Transport and retained by the SNCF travelers-RATP consortium. ” An offer too good to be true »For Henri Poupart Lafarge, CEO of Alstom who recently took control of Bombardier and who has just announced the withdrawal of this offer, provoking the ire of SNCF, RATP and Île-de-France Mobilités . To justify what appears to be a new twist in this affair, Henri Poupart Lafarge mentions in an interview with Figaro an offer that is not technically and financially viable, with a ” aggressiveness on costs which is not reasonable. The technical choices do not include any margin of error, those of the equipment are made as accurately as possible and the gauge of the trains is not up to standards “. In reaction to this decision, the RATP – SNCF Voyageurs group “says it is ready to initiate all legal actions against Alstom-Bombardier, given the commitment made by the Bombardie consortiumr “.
In this context, can the commitments initially made to deliver the new trains in 2025 be kept? Nothing is less sure. ” With this decision, RER B users will certainly not see the new trains in 2025 Says the Usine Nouvelle. In any case, this decision sounds like bad news for RER B users, whose aging materials cause all kinds of inconvenience regularly denounced. According to Michel Babut, vice-president of the Île-de-France transport users association, “ current trains are too old, unreliable and have too many regularity problems. The new trainsets will allow, according to the specifications established by Ile-de-France Mobilités, the transport manager who finances the project, to increase the number of passengers transported by more than 20% “. RER line B is in fact the second busiest in the network, with nearly a million travelers per day before the health crisis. The signing of the delivery contract for the new trains should have put the RER B back on track. On the contrary, Alstom’s decision raises fears of major financial consequences, both for operators and users, the first to be affected by a delay in modernizing the network.
For overwhelmed users, the risk of an additional financial cost
A delay in train delivery, which would be caused by a renegotiation of the terms of the contract by Alstom, could have repercussions on the bill paid by users. Île-de-France Mobilités, which is financing the project, does it have the means to go beyond the 2.56 billion euros initially planned? Alstom, an unsuccessful candidate for the call for tenders, proposed an offer that exceeded of 500 million euros that of Bombardier. But the health crisis has put IDFM in difficulty, as Valérie Pécresse, president of the Ile de France region and IDFM recalled in July: “The Covid is a hurricane that has caused us abysmal revenue losses of 2.6 billion euros: 1.6 billion lost commercial revenue due to the drop in attendance and one billion from the mobility payment. From the start we have paid for the equivalent of 100% of the services with 30% of the trains running, the trains themselves empty. We did it thinking that the State would be on our side ”. Since then, an agreement described as ” transport rescue plan Was found with the State on the financing of transport in Ile-de-France to compensate for this loss of revenue. But the health crisis dragged on, to the point that it could force the region to postpone its investment plan which notably includes the financing of new trains for the RER B. If the bill were to increase following a new call for offers, it is the users who should pay: either by reducing the transport supply or by increasing the prices paid.
The contribution of the CDG Express to the modernization of the RER B, a hope for users
Would the RER B then be a “cursed line”, as some call it? Faced with this modernization, the horizon of which seems to be receding, what can users expect? Scheduled for 2025, the CDG Express project, at an estimated cost of 2.2 billion euros, of which € 1 billion has already been invested, provides for 537 million euros specifically dedicated to the modernization of daily transport. In the context of Alstom’s rejection of Bombardier’s offer, these funds are an opportunity to begin the necessary modernization of the RER B before the delivery of the new trains, without financial impact for users. The financing of CDG Express is in fact provided by a contribution in equity from the three shareholders (Groupe ADP, SNCF Réseau and Caisse des Dépôts) and by a loan from the State, repaid with interest. The delivery of future trains also depends closely on the modernization of the tracks for which the CDG Express project is responsible. In particular, Bridge 1 at the exit of Gare du Nord: dating from 1894, it must be replaced to allow passage of the new double-decker trains.
Scheduled for 2025, the commissioning of the CDG Express will not take place before these modernization work on the RER B. As for the CDG Express itself, it will help relieve the RER B for a large number of travelers who use it. to get to or from Charles-de-Gaulle airport. The share of CDG Express users made up of former RER B travelers is thus estimated at 35%. A welcome relief while waiting for the new RER B trains after 2025.
Beyond the consequences of this legal battle between Alstom and the RATP-SNCF consortium regarding the delivery of the new RER B trains, it is the renewal of the mobility offer in Île-de-France which is at stake, with its consequences for economic recovery and environmental transition. Thiery Mallet, CEO of Transdev and president of the Union des Transports Publics et Ferroviaires (UTP), said this last June: “ without support, the shift towards carbon-based individual modes of travel and the increase in air pollution will take us back ten years, destroying any credibility of commitments in favor of the environment, for sustainable mobility and growth green. “While waiting for this support and for the future RER B trains, which may well be delayed, the contribution of 25% of the CDG Express budget to the modernization of daily transport appears to be a welcome first step towards the renewal of the offer. transport in Ile-de-France.