Railways: to develop leasing for support new entrants’ projects

01/03/2023 – By Frédéric de Kemmeter – Railway signalling and freelance copywriter – Suscribe my blog
(Version en français)
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The availability of rolling stock is a stumbling block to the ambitions of new operators to launch new open access services, with high investment costs for new vehicles and a limited second-hand market.

This is not a new observation. The second-hand market is unevenly distributed across Europe and approval criteria vary from one country to another. It is all the more regrettable given that the major operators now have large fleets of new trains, many of them high-speed ICE or TGV trains that are replacing pulled trains.

However, there are more opportunities in the German-Alpine area than in France or Italy.

The Association of European Rail Rolling Stock Lessors AERRL and the Association of Independent Operators AllRail have consulted on the issue of vehicle supply to facilitate the launch of new passenger services. This applies only to open access projects, not to public service contracts, where new equipment is almost always chosen.

Hirers and new entrants hand in hand

Some meetings between lessors in AERRL and new entrants in ALLRAIL resulted in a new commitment to actively contribute to the launch of new commercial passenger rail offers through maximum availability of passenger rolling stock.

The challenge for both associations is to show the national and European political authorities that they must have more confidence in the industry to create favourable conditions for the purchase of new rolling stock.

Fabien Rochefort, President of AERRL, recalls that « lessors’ potential to invest is well-known in the locomotive market. We have shown over the last 12 years that we are capable to give access to efficient, interoperable and safe rolling stock to all interested railway undertakings. We are willing to promote the same development on the rail passenger market, with the collaboration of all the players.« 

The AERRL members therefore wish to commit themselves beyond locomotives to finance and bring to market the necessary volume of high-speed and conventional rolling stock to enable all rail operators to build new commercial and innovative offers. AERRL’s members are interested in financing new and used rolling stock, including upgrades and refurbishment schemes.

For their part, ALLRAIL member operators undertake to use unused or underused long-distance rolling stock in the markets in which they are active, if it is available on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.

Erich Forster, President of AllRail (and former CEO of WESTbahn), explains « It is important that, like in other transport modes, there is an open and vibrant market for 2nd hand rolling stock. If there is unused or underused long distance rolling stock at Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory Terms, then we pledge that our members will use it – in order to grow EU cross-border rail and achieve modal shift. »

The two associations would also like to see such a commitment supported by the European Commission, which would trust private actors and help them to catalyse alternative ideas and innovation. Strong EU support is even a condition for the feasibility of certain passenger cars retrofits and upgrades.

Il pourrait également être appliqué au financement de plates-formes de matériel roulant nouvellement construites avec des coûts non récurrents, au profit de l’ensemble du marché et des clients des équipementiers. Grâce à ce soutien, la mise au rebut du matériel roulant avant sa durée de vie utile peut être évitée, ce qui est essentiel pour parvenir à une économie circulaire dynamique et durable.

AllRail, which defends a competitive approach to international rail transport, says it sees no opportunity in a public structure, which can only be national. It is true that, internationally, governments are hardly ever involved, except, as in the case of Trenitalia, SNCF, DB or Renfe, through the trains made available by these major operators and removed from their respective fleets, which are invested via public money.

Le marché du leasing à la hausse

The locomotive leasing market has experienced rapid and sustained growth between 2010 and 2020. In 2016-2020, 40% of new locomotive deliveries in the EU, Switzerland and Norway were to lessors, compared to 25% in 2011-2015. Within the mainline locomotive fleet, leased locomotives are mainly operated in rail freight services. In the coming years, lessors want to increase the volume of passenger rolling stock available to all operators.

AllRail argues that the long-distance passenger market should develop through commercial initiatives capable of attracting new passengers. We can recall the pre-pandemic figures of 2 private operators: 10 million passengers at Regiojet and 13 million at NTV-Italo, which is much more than Thalys.

Leasing new or second-hand rolling stock is clearly one of the keys to launching such services. Of the 12 open access operators in Europe without links to an incumbent, 8 have opted to buy new: NTV-Italo, WESTbahn, Leo Express, MTRX, Astra Trans Carpatic, ILSA (albeit with the help of the state-owned Trenitalia group), Grand Central, Hull Trains and Lumo, the latter 3 operating in the UK. Regiojet, Snälltåget (Transdev) and Flixtrain have opted for second-hand equipment. An 11th operator, Le Train, has just announced that it will buy new equipment via a leasing structure.

Trenitalia and SNCF, which are playing it alone in Spain, also have new equipment but this is public expenditure via their respective states.

For their part, AERRL’s member lessors are ready to make their financial tools, expertise and investment capacity available to help the international passenger rail market gain access to an open and fluid passenger rolling stock market.

AERRL and AllRail now call on all rolling stock owners, operators and lessors to participate in the objectives of the Green Deal by accelerating the drive for passenger rail growth. 🟧

Lumo (First Group) has leased Hitachi class 803 trains to launch its own trains between London King Cross and Edinburgh on the East Coast (Network Rail photo)

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01/03/2023 – By Frédéric de Kemmeter – Railway signalling
Suscribe my blog

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