French rail operator Railcoop goes bust

The co-op went into administration in October 2023

France’s first rail co-operative Railcoop has announced its upcoming liquidation after facing a series of financial challenges.

Launched in 2019, Railcoop was set up as a co-operative society of collective interest (SCIC) and had grown to include 14,500 members.

The co-op wanted to connect Bordeaux to Lyon, via the route Roanne, Montluçon, Limoges and Périgueux. The two cities have not been linked by a direct train route since 2014 when public operator SNCF abandoned the route.

Railcoop had planned to run its passenger journeys in 2022 but had to postpone its plans several times, including a delay caused by Covid-19.

Last year Railcoop’s board of directors voted to suspend its freight activities to concentrate its resources on the launch of the Bordeaux-Lyon line. This was followed by the launch of two fundraisers, a share offer and an equity securities offer to raise €4.1m in 2023 to cover the necessary investments, particularly the purchase of an additional X72500 three-coach train. Later in the year Railcoop also launched travel vouchers which customers would have been able to redeem against train tickets.

The co-op eventually went into administration in October 2023, which meant that it had a six-month window to find capital to continue its activity.

One of the challenges faced by Railcoop was the high cost of storing the two second-hand railcars it had purchased. The co-op says ACC M, a firm specialised in the restoration of railway equipment, charged it €880,000 in garage costs, in addition to the 350,000 euros already paid for carrying out the audit of the trains, which, it adds, had not been completed. A commercial court ruled in favour of ACC M on 21 March which meant that Railcoop was unable to sell its two trains to secure short-term funding and pay its debts.

“As it stands, the Cahors commercial court should have no other choice than to pronounce, on April 15, 2024, the liquidation of our co-operative,” Railcoop indicated in a message to its members.

Railcoop has been contacted for additional comments.