French light rail projects receive state funding

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The French government’s environmental agency, Ademe, has selected five projects to develop lighter trains and technologies as part of the rail transport digitization and decarbonisation program launched in July 2021.

At the time, Ademe launched a call for expressions of interest (EOI) for the development of lighter trains and associated technologies that would make both rolling stock and infrastructure cheaper to buy and operate. maintenance while consuming less energy while making rail more attractive for travellers.

The main objectives of the program are:

  • the development of light trains adapted to the operation of marginal branches, thus avoiding the closure
  • the digitalization of rail infrastructure to increase capacity on the existing network, and
  • increased automation of freight trains, contributing to the government‘s goal of doubling traffic by 2030.

Projects totaling €1 billion have been submitted. The government will provide funding of €75 million to support the following projects:

  • Train Léger Innovant (Trains Légers Innovants) – will cost €50 million and will involve Alstom, CAF, Texelis and Thales as well as the rail campus of the University of Nouvelle-Aquitaine in Saintes, where tests will be carried out. The plan is to develop a modular train and new frugal track practices designed to reduce overall costs by 30%. The first train will operate in 2029.
  • Draisy – a €30m project involving SNCF, Lohr and the Grand Est and Hauts-de-France regions. A train the size of a bus will be built with 30 seats and 50 standing places and equipped with batteries. The train is designed for possible automation. The project aims to halve the cost of rail transport per passenger-kilometre and could make it possible to equip between 40 and 80 small lines. The first tests should start in 2024.
  • Ecotrain – an 8 M€ project led by Stratiforme, and supported by Socofer and the Occitanie region. It is an autonomous battery-powered shuttle that can transport passengers or cargo. The project is to test the train in Occitania.
  • Flexmove – a 30 million euro project led by Akka Technologies and SICEF, and involving Alstom and Systra. The project concerns the development of an autonomous light vehicle based on an electric motor for small lines that are little or no longer used. Tests will take place on the Quillan – Limoux branch line in the south of France, and
  • SIG4LFDT – a 25 M€ project, led by Alstom and involving the Saintes railway campus. It is a low cost signaling system for lightly used lines. The main objective is to halve the cost of deploying a signaling solution and reduce the cost of operation and maintenance by at least a third compared to the traditional solution.

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