In France, as is the case in most of Europe, the public authorities are responsible for organising passenger transport, e.g.:
To qualify these four levels of responsibility, we talk of public transport organising authorities.
These organising authorities take the main decisions in terms of defining services, pricing and finance.
Passenger transport services are operated by companies who have the day to day responsibility for the customers and operating the services within the framework of the choices made by the organising authorities.
Railway transport involves the Head of State who is the controlling authority for the RFF and SNCF, but there is also an increasing role for the Regions.
The RFF (Réseau Ferré de France) is responsible for the construction and management of the railway infrastructure.
The SNCF (French Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer) is responsible for operating passenger rail services whether it involves Grandes Lignes, TER or the Transilien.
The TGV (train à grande vitesse - high speed train) now serves a large part of France and carries about 2/3 of the long distance traffic.
No fewer than 10 LGV (Ligne à grande vitesse - high speed track) projects are currently under evaluation including the Eastern LGV which will enter service in 2007.
Many inter-regional services are provided by Corail trains.
The Regions are transport organising authorities for regional rail services whose operation is allocated to the SNCF through contracts.
A strategic modernisation programme for the TER has been started at the initiative of the Regions which has resulted in more rapid renewal of equipment, strengthened services and the first tests of fixed interval services.
The Regions also organise medium range coach services between towns.
250 urban transport networks serve French towns and are organised by the local authorities, usually intercommunity councils (regrouping several localities or a union of local administrations) and sometimes in combination with the departments (these are called mixed unions).
Urban public transport has experienced continuous improvement since the seventies as demonstrated by the installation of about twenty tram and underground railways and, more generally, considerable improvement in service level and quality.
Urban transport authorities award network operation licences by tenders, usually to private companies that are subsidiaries of major European companies (Kéolis, Transdev, Véolia Transport), but also to smaller public or private companies.
30,000 coaches criss-cross the French roads.
The Departments are the organising authorities for coach routes, both regular routes and school services, which are awarded to 1,500 companies by tenders.
Many departments are careful to avoid a network effect developing.
Public transport services are especially well developed in Ile-de-France where each resident uses them on average once per day.
The RER and the Carte Orange (orange card) are two strong symbols of a network that are the envy of many major cities.
The organising authority for transport in this zone is the STIF (Syndicat des Transports d’Ile-de-France), where the majority is held by the Region with representations from the Departments and Paris.
The STIF awards contracts for operating services to the RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens) and the SNCF (Transilien).
The RATP operates the Metro's 16 underground railway lines, 2 tram lines and 4,000 bus routes in Paris and its suburbs.
The Transilien is a dense network of fixed interval railway services.
1,070 bus routes in the greater Paris ring are operated by the private companies in Optile.