Private sector construction and management of railway infrastructures: contractual framework and responsibilities.

The cooperation agreements between public and private sectors to develop and modernise part of France’s rail network can take various contractual forms and include different levels of responsibility and involvement.

Private-Public Partnerships are the contractual framework used by AGIFI members
AGIFI members manage a wide variety of activities including the design, funding, construction, maintenance and operation of railway infrastructures

Private-Public Partnerships are the contractual framework used by AGIFI members.

AGIFI members operate under Private-Public Partnership agreements, which include concession contracts and partnership agreements.

Concession contracts

Under concession contracts, supply and demand risks are transferred to private operators. Private operators must therefore manage both the financial and technical risks as well as ridership risks.  They are not only in charge of building and maintaining the line but also of commercial operations.  This includes allocating train paths to railway carriers and traffic management.

Two AGIFI members manage concession contracts: LISEA and Eurotunnel

Partnership agreements

Under this model, only the supply risks are transferred to private operators as they are paid a monthly fee by the public sector contracting authority. This fee is determined based on infrastructure availability and the operator’s ability to meet the performance criteria set out in the contract.

Three AGIFI members manage this type of partnership agreement: Oc’Via, Eiffage and SYNERAIL

AGIFI members manage a wide variety of activities including the design, funding, construction, maintenance and operation of railway infrastructures

1st area of activity: complex infrastructure design & funding

AGIFI members are responsible for securing funding and developing innovative schemes to cover infrastructure construction costs. They assemble complex financial packages that can be tailored to individual project needs, which involve a combination of own capital, bank finance and public funding. They also possess the skills to manage these packages over time and devise innovative mechanisms to optimise these investments long-term.

2nd area of activity: infrastructure construction

Between them, AGIFI members have built over 680 km of railway. Projects under development in 2016 (Eiffage on the Bretagne – Pays de Loire HSL, Oc’Via on the Nîmes-Montpellier rail by-pass, LISEA on the Tours-Bordeaux HSL, SYNERAIL on GSM-R) represent investments of €13.5 billion over 5 years, half of which is raised by the private sector.

These projects tend to take 5 to 6 years to complete from the signature of the contract through to commissioning and involve a number of phases:

Timeline Arrow
Phase 1

Consultation, design, land acquisition and regulatory approval.

Phase 2

Construction work: civil engineering work and the installation of railway equipment

Phase 3

Testing prior to commissioning and obtaining operating certificates from the Railway Safety Authority (EPSF)

Railway maintenance includes the replacement of track components to optimise safety and availability.

Railway maintenance includes the replacement of track components to optimise safety and availability.

3rd area of activity: equipment maintenance

AGIFI members are also responsible for the long-term maintenance of the railway equipment.

They must meet stringent performance criteria and commit to providing users with access to top quality infrastructures. Maintaining equipment and infrastructures to the strictest safety and reliability standards, in line with profitability constraints is not only technologically and economically challenging but also complex from an organisational perspective.

Maintenance bases are built as close to the lines as possible.  ERE has set up two, LISEA four and Oc’Via two. Eurotunnel has built a specific elevated track in each tunnel for maintenance purposes.

Once an infrastructure has been built, the main objective is to enhance availability and guard against failures by devising maintenance solutions so that infrastructures are only closed to traffic for the shortest periods of time.  AGIFI members have developed innovative tools for assessing levels of infrastructure wear at a very early stage and for prioritising maintenance activities.

One of Eurotunnel’s Control Centres for managing rail traffic (shuttles and trains).

One of Eurotunnel’s Control Centres for managing rail traffic (shuttles and trains).

4th area of activity: operation management

AGIFI concession holders must also operate their sections of line. This includes:

  • Allocating train paths in response to requests from railway carriers. These must be allocated on the basis of equal access.
  • Providing maximum levels of infrastructure availability.
  • Providing quality services, i.e. providing access to high performance infrastructures and top quality passenger services. It could for example include providing Wi-Fi access.

Public and private sectors work hand in hand. On sections of line operated by independent infrastructure managers, SNCF Réseau works closely with the operator on train path allocation and traffic management.

Independent infrastructure managers are determined to exploit their network’s full potential by taking note of traffic constraints and carefully planning maintenance activities.  Network efficiency depends on keeping convoys moving at maximum speeds on high-grade networks.