Ordered in 2019, and presented with great fanfare by Malu Dreyer in 2021, the new Régiolis diesel-electric hybrid trains were due to enter service on France-Germany regional routes in December 2024.

And now – it quietly slipped out – that date has been pushed to December 2026, according to the Transport Ministry of Baden-Württemberg.

What’s the reason?

It is not the trains themselves. Those are due to be delivered on schedule by the end of 2024. We know this because the Région Grand Est… is proposing to use the trains on routes in France between 2024 and 2026! See their press release here (PDF).

So yes, you understood that right. Trains for cross border routes are ready, but are likely to be deployed on national routes in the meantime.

The reason – I suspect but do not know for sure – are the complexities of the tendering process for the cross border routes, for both operations and maintenance. The German Länder that border France – Baden-Württemberg, Rheinland-Pfalz and Saarland – wanted a competitive tender, while Grand Est did not. And the Régiolis trains are built in Grand Est in Reichshoffen – and I presume cannot be maintained in Germany.

The state of regional cross border rail between France and Germany is very poor currently. Even on the lines with solid infrastructure (such as Saarbrücken-Forbach and Offenburg-Strasbourg) diesel regional trains with inadequate capacity run, even though the lines are electrified.

The obvious solution would be to find an interim arrangement of some sort (before the competitive tender process is done) to run at least some of the new trains on the electrified routes (Saarbrücken-Forbach and Offenburg-Strasbourg, and possibly also Perl-Thionville and Müllheim-Mulhouse). The other lines (Saarbrücken-Mommenheim, Winden(Pfalz)-Wissembourg-Haguenau and Wörth(Rhein)-Lauterbourg-Strasbourg) are less crucial as those are not electrified anyway.

All of this makes me annoyed. Why – when there is a problem with the tendering process – is the knee-jerk reaction to deploy these new trains nationally in France, instead of finding an interim solution to deploy them internationally – which is what the trains were intended for?

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