Railcoop - Railcoop History - A
Railcoop - A
Railcoop is a French rail cooperative society, headquartered in Cambes, Lot. It is one of the first private passenger service companies to be created in the aftermath of the liberalisation of rail transportation in France and the end of the monopoly on passenger transit for the national railway operator SNCF. As the rail network remains state-owned by the public agency SNCF Réseau, Railcoop operates as an independent rail operator by purchasing slots for operating its services, its schedules are regularly communicated to the national transport regulation authority.
Railcoop was formally established during November 2019, at which point it set about recruiting members and raising funds with which to establish train operations, by February 2021, it had raised €1.3 million and had 5,500 shareholders, which included multiple local authorities. In September 2021, it was announced that Railcoop had received its rail operator license, and obtained confirmation of the necessary train paths for its initial operations. Two months later, the organisation launched its first train service, hauling freight three times per week between Figeac and Toulouse, this was increased to a daily service in January 2022.
From its founding, Railcoop's stated primary project is the reopening of a direct passenger service between Bordeaux and Lyon, a service which SNCF had opted to discontinue in 2014. It has obtained its own rolling stock and petitioned for suitable train paths to be allocated. At one point, the passenger service was set to commence in June 2022, however, it had to be postponed until December 2022. Railcoop had ambitions to launch several other passenger services in the future.
During 2009, liberalisation reforms were implemented in France, resulting in the opening of the rail transport market for international services. Shortly thereafter, the Italian private company Thello announced plans to operate its own service between the cities of Paris and Venice. During 2020, the national flag carrier Air France was ordered by the French government to reduce its domestic flights that competed with rail travel in an effort to promote a shift in the travelling public towards the latter medium. French authorities were reportedly keen to welcome competition to its rail market, additional moves in this direction were implemented during the early 2020s. Despite this, there has been criticism voiced that the French rail sector is unwelcoming to new entrants.
Operating in the context of a very weak use of the railways within France's low-populated areas and the dominance of high speed trains on major trunk routes, Railcoop aims to re-develop medium-size rail connections. During the early 2010s, Railcoop was initially structured as a not-for-profit or voluntary association, it became a "cooperative society aiming at a collective interest" (SCIC), the first such entity, in November 2019. By this point, the organisation had gained the backing of a wide range of investors, including €500,000 from the regional government of Grand Est, to support its ambitions. Reportedly, Railcoop was required to have a minimum share capital of €1.5 million as well as recruit 3,000 members in order to obtaining a railway operating license. By February 2021, the organisation had reportedly raised €1.3 million and had 5,500 shareholders, including multiple local authorities.
On 9 June 2020, Railcoop confirmed its intentions with France's Regulatory Transport Authority (ART), which investigated whether the planned service conflicted with any existing public service. The same year, the recruitment of 100 staff members commenced. In September 2021, it was announced that Railcoop had received its rail operator license, a necessary step towards operating its own train services. That same month, French authorities confirmed the necessary train paths for such services to be run, furthermore, the organisation was closing in on obtaining its safety certificate, which would enable services to commence shortly thereafter.
Railcoop Type: Private cooperative company with collective interest (SCIC)