Season 9 -  Nicolas’ projects
Episode 12 -  Finally, some rolling stock solutions

Nicolas Bargelès — After maintenance, we have to think about rolling stock as the logical next step. Cars are first, for one simple reason: there’s nothing to say on the subject. Move along, there's nothing to see. We have a manufacturer in Eastern Europe who’s waiting for our signal to launch production of our reinvented night train cars. They’re well designed, adapted to our needs and within our price range. Just one thing left to sort: raising the funds we need to get everything on track. But that’s a story we’ll tell in the next season of Confidences.

On the locomotive front though, there’s good news. Interoperable machines on a France-Switzerland-Italy and Italy-Switzerland-France route don’t really exist in today’s market, but this could change very quickly. The two main players in the market, Siemens and Alstom (which recently bought Bombardier) have both approached the French market with different methods. Now that their interoperable machines have spread across European freight corridors, France - which a few years ago had a more complicated approval process than in other countries - appears to be a possible growth driver for them. Alstom is evolving its Traxx platform (inherited from Bombardier) to cover the needs of passenger traffic. On the Siemens side, there’s a universal locomotive, which is a little more sophisticated, and can do both.

The arrival of these solutions has a halo effect as it feeds the appetite of ROSCOs (rolling stock companies) and locomotive rental companies for the French market and the international market passing through French territory. The latter has therefore already almost all signed framework agreements with one or other of these manufacturers. In addition, it seems that this new attraction also concerns night train towed cars. After their initial enthusiasm, the ROSCOs will need to find outlets for these locomotives. These no longer need to be changed at the border to eliminate costs, which benefits our business plan.

Finally, and this is no small matter, ECTS – the unified European train control system – is starting to bear fruit. Its gradual installation throughout Europe makes the circulation of international trains increasingly simple. The initial equipment was expensive, but it’s now industrialised on a large scale. Cross-border points are a little easier to traverse - even if some new challenges, such as different versions of equipment, are emerging. As we aim to establish a European network of night trains, we have to consider all these developments carefully.

Adrien Aumont — The topic of locomotives has revealed a lot to us. Unlike other aspects, the maturity of the French and European market is finally working in our favour. Unlike other problems we’ve faced, we may not need to take the long route and compromise by slotting our trains into existing gaps to achieve our objectives. The solution presented itself, of its own accord, and we didn’t have to go out of our way for it. Even though we’re not the main instigators, the market movement is favourable - we’re just in the right place at the right time. There will probably be a period of several years when we’ll still have to change locomotives at certain border crossings. But that won't last and, at the end of the tunnel (railway, obviously), there’s the Holy Grail for any company like ours: a locomotive that’s interoperable between the countries it passes through. All that remains is to choose which one. Because, for obvious maintenance reasons, we won’t be flitting between Alstom-Bombardier and Siemens. Fortunately, we still have some time before we need to make the final decision.

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